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Biotic plant-soil feedbacks alone do not explain why more diverse plant communities are less invasible

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An increase number of studies suggests that more diverse communities of native plants more strongly resist invasion by introduced plants. Here we tested whether biotic plant-soil feedbacks can explain this relationship independently of other factors, via either soil richness, as based on the number of different plant species conditioning the soil; or soil heterogeneity, the degree to which plant-soil feedbacks involving different plant species are spatially separated. No previous study appears to have tested both soil richness and heterogeneity as components of biotic plant-soil feedbacks that might explain why more diverse native plant communities are less invasible.


We conditioned soils with monocultures of six native plant species and grew five introduced plant species individually in sterilized soil inoculated with one, two, or four of the conditioned soils, keeping the conditioned soils separate or mixing them.


Soil richness had little effect on the final dry mass of any introduced species. Higher soil heterogeneity did not decrease final mass in any introduced species and instead increased it in one.


Results suggest that biotic plant-soil feedbacks are not in themselves an important mechanism by which diversity limits invasibility but do not rule out the possibility that such feedbacks play a role in combination with other mechanisms such as abiotic feedbacks or plant competition.

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We thank Yao-Le Ma and Wei-Long Li for assistance with the experiment.


Research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 32001122) and Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation (Grant LQ21C030003).

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Authors and Affiliations



Wei Xue conceived the idea and designed methodology. Hao-Ming Yuan, Xiao-Mei Zhang, Lin-Xuan He, Wei Xue, Lin Huang and Ling Peng conducted the experiment and collected the data. Hao-Ming Yuan and Xiao-Mei Zhang analyzed the data with guidance of Wei Xue. Hao-Ming Yuan, Xiao-Mei Zhang and Wei Xue wrote the first version of the manuscript. Peter Alpert and Fei-Hai Yu improved the manuscript. All authors discussed the results, contributed substantially to the draft and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Wei Xue or Fei-Hai Yu.

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Yuan, HM., Zhang, XM., Alpert, P. et al. Biotic plant-soil feedbacks alone do not explain why more diverse plant communities are less invasible. Plant Soil (2024).

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