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The role of plant–soil feedbacks and land-use legacies in restoration of a temperate steppe in northern China

Abstract

Plant–soil feedbacks affect plant performance and plant community dynamics; however, little is known about their role in ecological restoration. Here, we studied plant–soil feedbacks in restoration of steppe vegetation after agricultural disturbance in northern China. First, we analyzed abiotic and biotic soil properties under mono-dominant plant patches in an old-field restoration site and in a ‘target’ steppe site. Second, we tested plant–soil feedbacks by growing plant species from these two sites on soils from con- and heterospecific origin. Soil properties generally did not differ between the old-field site and steppe site, but there were significant differences among mono-dominant plant patches within the sites. While soil species origin (i.e., the plant species beneath which the soil was collected) affected biomass of individual plant species in the feedback experiment, species-level plant–soil feedbacks were ‘neutral’. Soil site origin (old-field, steppe) significantly affected biomass of old-field and steppe species. For example, old-field species had higher biomass in old-field soils than in steppe soils, indicating a positive land-use legacy. However, soil site origin effects depended on the plant species beneath which the soils were collected. The predictive value of abiotic and biotic soil properties in explaining plant biomass differed between and within groups of old-field and steppe species. We conclude that the occurrence of positive land-use legacies for old-field species may retard successional replacement of old-field species by steppe species. However, high levels of idiosyncrasy in responses of old-field and steppe plant species to con- and heterospecific soils indicate interspecific variation in the extent to which soil legacies and plant–soil feedbacks control successional species replacements in Chinese steppe ecosystems.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the State Key Basic Research Development Program of China (2007CB106801) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30830026, 30821062). The authors thank Shiqiang Wan, Shuli Niu, Jianyang Xia, Weixing Liu, Wenhua Xu, Zhe Zhang, Yang Li, Haijun Yang, and Tingting Li for the help in setting up the experiment and for comments on previous drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xingguo Han.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Mean percentage biomass of the dominant species in the mono-dominant plant patches

  Old-field species Steppe species
Art cap Art lav Pen cen Art fri Ley chi Sti kry
Percentage of biomass 64.54 ± 6.92 83.72 ± 3.60 100.00 ± 0.00 86.28 ± 3.71 55.42 ± 8.57 59.09 ± 2.70
  1. Art cap Artemisia capillaris, Art lav Artemisia lavandulaefolia, Pen cen Pennisetum centrasiaticum, Art fri Artemisia frigida, Ley chi Leymus chinensis , Sti kry Stipa krylovii

Appendix 2

Result from one-way ANOVAs testing effects of soil species origin (Art cap, Art lav, Pen cen, Art fri, Ley chi, Sti Kry) on plant biomass

  Old-field species Steppe species
Art cap Art lav Pen cen Art fri Ley chi Sti kry
df 5 5 5 5 5 5
F 9.4 8.33 2.06 9.72 2.41 10.18
p <0.01* <0.01* 0.09 <0.01* 0.05 <0.01*
  1. Shown are df, F and p values
  2. Art cap Artemisia capillaris, Art lav Artemisia lavandulaefolia, Pen cen Pennisetum centrasiaticum, Art fri Artemisia frigida, Ley chi Leymus chinensis, Sti kry Stipa krylovii
  3. * Indicates significant effect

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Jiang, L., Han, X., Zhang, G. et al. The role of plant–soil feedbacks and land-use legacies in restoration of a temperate steppe in northern China. Ecol Res 25, 1101–1111 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-010-0735-x

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Keywords

  • Abiotic and biotic soil properties
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Land-use history
  • Natural experiment approach
  • Old-field
  • Secondary succession
  • Soil chemistry