Soil biota drive plant diversity

posted Jan 12, 2017, 2:40 PM by Etienne Laliberté

We showed in a paper published in Science today that feedback between soil biota and plants of contrasting nutrient-acquisition-strategies contributes to the maintenance of high plants species and functional diversity in Mediterranean-climate shrublands. The paper is available here.
A press release here.
Another very interesting paper in the same issue about the importance of plant-soil feedback here.
A perspective by Win van der Putten about these two papers here.

2016 Tansley Medal

posted Dec 9, 2016, 12:42 PM by Etienne Laliberté

It is a great honour to have been awarded the 2016 Tansley Medal from the New Phytologist Trust. The invited review that was judged during the competition is available here.

Plant-soil feedback and the maintenance of diversity

posted Dec 8, 2016, 7:38 AM by Etienne Laliberté

Our study on the role of plant-soil feedback for the maintenance of plant diversity in hyperdiverse Australian scrublands was recently accepted for publication in Science. Stay tuned!

Pathogens, ectomycorrhizas and plant competition

posted Nov 11, 2016, 12:08 PM by Etienne Laliberté   [ updated Nov 11, 2016, 12:10 PM ]

Native pathogens reduce plant competition

Felipe Albornoz, a recent PhD graduate in our lab, has published a video blog post on here explaining the results of his recent study in Journal of Ecology. Worth watching -- only 7 min long and very well made!

PhD funded position in mycorrhizal ecology

posted Nov 3, 2016, 1:10 PM by Etienne Laliberté

A funded PhD position in mycorrhizal ecology is availaible in our group. Please see attached PDF and this link for more details!

Belowground frontiers in trait-based plant ecology

posted Oct 14, 2016, 11:24 AM by Etienne Laliberté

New Tansley Insight short review published today on how to better integrate root and mycorrhizal fungal traits into trait-based plant functional ecology!

See publications page for a PDF.

'Jack-of-all-trades' plants

posted Jan 20, 2016, 6:43 AM by Etienne Laliberté   [ updated Mar 30, 2016, 1:52 PM ]

Plant species show a remarkable diversity of belowground strategies to acquire nutrients: different types of mycorrhizal associations, symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and many more. While most plant species use only one strategy, a few plant species possess the ability to form different types of symbiotic associations with some fungi and bacteria.

Felipe Albornoz (PhD student) studied two plant species in south-western Australia that occur across a long-term soil chronosequence representing a very strong soil nutrient availability gradient. These two plant species can form arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal association, and one also fixes nitrogen in root nodules with the help of some bacteria. The results showed that plant investment into these different associations depends on soil nutrient availability, particularly which nutrient (nitrogen or phosphorus) limits plant growth. Arbuscular mycorrhizal colonisation was higher in younger, more P-rich soils but shifted toward ectomycorrhizal colonisation in older P-poor soils where most of the P is in organic forms. Investment in N-fixing nodules declined with soil age because P rather than N became the limiting nutrient.

This study was just published in Ecology and Evolution. See publications for more details.

Mycorrhizal fungi struggle when soil P is extremely low

posted Dec 22, 2015, 7:29 AM by Etienne Laliberté

Mycorrhizal fungi are root symbionts of plants, and their main benefit to plants is thought to enhance the acquisition of soil phosophorus. However, when soils become extremely old and phosphorus-impoverished, it seems that the mycorrhizal strategy becomes ineffective. Our new study shows that extraradical mycorrhizal hyphal biomass is indeed extremely low in old, phosphorus-impoverished soils. This suggests that plants reduce carbon allocation to mycorrhizal fungi when phosphorus becomes extremely low, or that mycorrhizal fungi struggle to acquire the phosphorus they need for their own growth.

We published this new article in Soil Biology and Biochemistry. It can be downloaded from this page.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal diversity rises but then falls during ecosystem retrogression

posted Sep 21, 2015, 6:39 AM by Etienne Laliberté

A new study has been accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology. In this study, we used pyrosequencing to survey shifts in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal communities on roots and in soils along the retrogressive part of the 2-million year Jurien Bay dune chronosequence in south-western Australia.

Surprisingly, we found that AM fungal diversity initially increased from 1000-year old soils (quite fertile) to 120,000-year soils (low in phosphorus), but that diversity then declined markedly on 2,000,000 years with extremely low phosphorus availability. This suggests environmental filtering of AM fungi during ecosystem retrogression, when phosphorus reaches extremely low levels.

Plant nutrient acquisition: more than one way to skin a cat in infertile soils

posted Mar 13, 2015, 10:19 AM by Etienne Laliberté

PhD student Graham Zemunik has just had the first chapter of this thesis accepted in the new journal Nature Plants. Congratulations Graham! Graham's study shows that the diversity of plant-nutrient acquisition strategies (i.e. different types of mycorrhizal association, ability to fix N, non-mycorrhizal types, carnivory, parasitism, etc) increases as soils get progressively more nutrient-imporverished during long-term soil development. Moreover, mycorrhizal plants are more abundant in young, relatively fertile soils but because progressively less abundant with declining fertility (especially P availability), while non-mycorrhizal plant species increase in abundance.

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