Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, 81:509 | Cite as

Effects of above-ground plant species composition and diversity on the diversity of soil-borne microorganisms

  • George. A. Kowalchuk
  • Douwe S. Buma
  • Wietse de Boer
  • Peter G.L. Klinkhamer
  • Johannes A. van Veen


A coupling of above-ground plant diversity and below-ground microbial diversity has been implied in studies dedicated to assessing the role of macrophyte diversity on the stability, resilience, and functioning of ecosystems. Indeed, above-ground plant communities have long been assumed to drive below-ground microbial diversity, but to date very little is known as to how plant species composition and diversity influence the community composition of micro-organisms in the soil. We examined this relationship in fields subjected to different above-ground biodiversity treatments and in field experiments designed to examine the influence of plant species on soil-borne microbial communities. Culture-independent strategies were applied to examine the role of wild or native plant species composition on bacterial diversity and community structure in bulk soil and in the rhizosphere. In comparing the influence of Cynoglossum officinale (hound's tongue) and Cirsium vulgare (spear thistle) on soil-borne bacterial communities, detectable differences in microbial community structure were confined to the rhizosphere. The colonisation of the rhizosphere of both plants was highly reproducible, and maintained throughout the growing season. In a separate experiment, effects of plant diversity on bacterial community profiles were also only observed for the rhizosphere. Rhizosphere soil from experimental plots with lower macrophyte diversity showed lower diversity, and bacterial diversity was generally lower in the rhizosphere than in bulk soil. These results demonstrate that the level of coupling between above-ground macrophyte communities and below-ground microbial communities is related to the tightness of the interactions involved. Although plant species composition and community structure appear to have little discernible effect on microbial communities inhabiting bulk soil, clear and reproducible changes in microbial community structure and diversity are observed in the rhizosphere.

16S rDNA biodiversity collector's curve PCR-DGGE 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • George. A. Kowalchuk
    • 1
  • Douwe S. Buma
    • 1
  • Wietse de Boer
    • 1
  • Peter G.L. Klinkhamer
    • 2
  • Johannes A. van Veen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant-Microorganism InteractionsNetherlands Institute of Ecology, Centre for Terrestrial EcologyHeterenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Research Group Ecology of Plant-Animal InteractionsUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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