Soil Biota as Drivers of Plant Community Assembly

  • Paul KardolEmail author
  • Jonathan R. De Long
  • Pierre Mariotte
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 234)


Evidence is accumulating that belowground soil organisms are strong drivers of the aboveground plant community. In this chapter, we examine how soil communities influence plant community assembly through priority effects, soil legacy effects, and niche modification. We discuss how different functional groups of soil organisms drive competitive interactions, species coexistence, and species turnover. We then explore how primary and secondary successional trajectories can be altered by soil communities and delve into the mechanisms by which soil communities can affect ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation. Finally, we discuss the role of soil biota in plant invasion and range expansion and how soil biota interact with global environmental changes to affect plant community composition. We conclude by outlining knowledge gaps and propose potential avenues for addressing these gaps via upscaling of measurements, enhanced experimental design, and the utilization of plant and soil organism traits.



We thank Tadashi Fukami and Benjamin Sikes for their helpful comment on an earlier version of the manuscript. Financial support to PK was provided by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Kardol
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathan R. De Long
    • 2
  • Pierre Mariotte
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Department of Terrestrial EcologyNetherlands Institute of EcologyWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), Laboratory of Ecological Systems (ECOS)LausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)LausanneSwitzerland

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