Phylogenetic signals and predictability in plant–soil feedbacks

Elizabeth M. Wandrag, Sarah E. Bates, Luke G. Barrett, Jane A. Catford, Peter H. Thrall, Wim H. van der Putten, Richard P. Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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There is strong evidence for a phylogenetic signal in the degree to which species share co-evolved biotic partners and in the outcomes of biotic interactions. This implies there should be a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of feedbacks between plants and the soil microbiota they cultivate. However, attempts to identify a phylogenetic signal in plant–soil feedbacks have produced mixed results. Here we clarify how phylogenetic signals could arise in plant–soil feedbacks and use a recent compilation of data from feedback experiments to identify: whether there is a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of plant–soil feedbacks; and whether any signal arises through directional or divergent changes in feedback outcomes with evolutionary time. We find strong evidence for a divergent phylogenetic signal in feedback outcomes. Distantly related plant species show more divergent responses to each other’s soil microbiota compared with closely related plant species. The pattern of divergence implies occasional co-evolutionary shifts in how plants interact with soil microbiota, with strongly contrasting feedback responses among some plant lineages. Our results highlight that it is difficult to predict feedback outcomes from phylogeny alone, other than to say that more closely related species tend to have more similar responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1440-1449
Number of pages10
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


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