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Soil Microbe-Mediated N:P Stoichiometric Effects on Solidago canadensis Performance Depend on Nutrient Levels


Both soil microbes and soil N:P ratios can affect plant growth, but it is unclear whether they can interact to alter plant growth and whether such an interactive effect depends on nutrient levels. Here, we tested the hypothesis that soil microbes can ameliorate the negative effects of nutrient imbalance caused by low or high N:P ratios on plant growth and that such an ameliorative effect of soil microbes depends on nutrient supply levels. We grew individuals of six populations of the clonal plant Solidago canadensis at three N:P ratios (low (1.7), intermediate (15), and high (135)), under two nutrient levels (low versus high) and in the presence versus absence of soil microbes. The presence of soil microbes significantly increased biomass of S. canadensis at all three N:P ratios and under both nutrient levels. Under the low-nutrient level, biomass, height, and leaf number of S. canadensis did not differ significantly among the three N:P ratio treatments in the absence of soil microbes, but they were higher at the high than at the low and the intermediate N:P ratio in the presence of soil microbes. Under the high-nutrient level, by contrast, biomass, height, and leaf number of S. canadensis were significantly higher at the low than at the high and the intermediate N:P ratio in the absence of soil microbes, but increased with increasing the N:P ratio in the presence of soil microbes. In the presence of soil microbes, number of ramets (asexual individuals) and the accumulation of N and P in plants were significantly higher at the high than at the low and the intermediate N:P ratio under both nutrient levels, whereas in the absence of soil microbes, they did not differ significantly among the three N:P ratio regardless of the nutrient levels. Our results provide empirical evidence that soil microbes can alter effects of N:P ratios on plant performance and that such an effect depends on nutrient availability. Soil microbes may, therefore, play a role in modulating ecosystem functions such as productivity and carbon and nutrient cycling via modulating nutrient imbalance caused by low and high N:P ratios.

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Data Availability

After acceptance, all data will be deposited at Dryad Digital Repository.


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We thank Dr. Ayub M.O. Oduor for providing the seeds of Solidago canadensis, help with data analysis, and comments on an early version of the manuscript.


This work was supported by the Ten-Thousand-Talent Program of Zhejiang Province (2018R52016), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870610), and the Joint Fund of Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation (LTZ20C030001).

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Conceptualization: Michael Opoku Adomako; methodology: Michael Opoku Adomako and Fei-Hai Yu; formal analysis and investigation: Michael Opoku Adomako; writing—original draft preparation: Michael Opoku Adomako; writing—review and editing: Fei-Hai Yu, Wei Xue, and Dao-Lin Du; funding acquisition: Fei-Hai Yu; resources: Fei-Hai Yu; Supervision: Fei-Hai Yu and Dao-Lin Du.

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Correspondence to Fei-Hai Yu.

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Adomako, M.O., Xue, W., Du, DL. et al. Soil Microbe-Mediated N:P Stoichiometric Effects on Solidago canadensis Performance Depend on Nutrient Levels . Microb Ecol (2021).

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