Living legacies: Influence of plant-mediated changes in soil communities on aboveground plant-insect interactions
We examine how soil-derived legacy effects of plants structure natural ecosystems, determine aboveground plant insect interactions, and how we can use soil legacy effects to restore degraded ecosystems.
- 2015 - 2020
- Martijn Bezemer
- NWO Talent Scheme (VICI)
We examine the impact of soil-borne ‘legacy effects’ of plants on other plants and aboveground insects in natural grasslands.
Plant soil feedbacks
Soils are a medium in which plants root, but also house an overwhelming abundance and diversity of living organisms. The local composition and abundance of these organisms depends greatly on the identity of the plant that is growing in the soil. The performance of plants, in turn, is determined by interactions with soil organisms. Hence, via their specific effects on soil organisms, plants can influence the growth of other plants that grow later in the same soil.
Plant soil feedback effects on insects
Plant-soil legacies can cause changes in the composition of plant communities and can change the aboveground chemistry of individual plants. Via these two mechanisms, soil organisms can influence aboveground organisms such as insects that directly or indirectly depend on the plants.
In this project we examine how soil-derived legacy effects of plants structure natural ecosystems, determine its aboveground biodiversity, and how we can use soil legacy effects to restore degraded ecosystems.
We study interactions between plants, soil organisms, and aboveground insects and examine when, how, and at what temporal and spatial scales plant-soil legacy effects influence aboveground plant-insect interactions in natural grasslands.
Field and greenhouse experiments
We test soil-legacy effects on aboveground plant and insect communities by reciprocal soil and plant transplantations in grasslands. In field experiments soil legacies are be manipulated via influencing plant communities. Microcosm studies are used to disentangle the legacy effects of particular groups of soil organisms, and a general framework is developed that predicts the impact of soil-legacy effects on plants and aboveground insects.
The soil legacy framework will be used to manage soil legacies to restore biodiversity in degraded grassland ecosystems, and in collaboration with restoration practitioners, this will be field-tested in restoration sites.