Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Role of Soil Biota, Abiotic Stress, and Provenance in Plant Interactions and Restoration
by Emam, Taraneh Megan, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2015, 125; 3706585
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I asked how soil biota, abiotic stress, and plant provenance influence plant communities and interactions between plants. Soil biota can have positive or negative effects on individual plants, and also influence the diversity and productivity of plant communities through their net effects on individuals and by mediating plant-plant interactions. However, the level of abiotic stress experienced by plants is likely to drive plant responses to soil mutualists and antagonists. Additionally, plant provenance (e.g. population origin) can influence responses to abiotic soil conditions as well as to soil organisms. Understanding how these three interacting components shape plant interactions may improve success of restoration and invasive plant management. During restoration, the goal is typically to create conditions conducive to native plant reestablishment. However, amelioration of disturbed areas by reducing abiotic stress or by adding beneficial soil organisms may unintentionally increase colonization and growth of non-native plants. Using the applied context of mine restoration, I examined how soil biota, abiotic stress, and plant provenance affected plant communities and interactions in four studies.

In Chapter 1, I found that both a native grass (Bouteloua gracilis ) and an invasive grass (Bromus tectorum) responded positively to soil biota when grown alone in the greenhouse. However, when grown together, the presence of soil biota increased the competitive ability of Bromus, while the removal of soil biota increased competition by Bouteloua. Results supported the hypothesis that invasive species such as Bromus often have positive responses to soil biota in the invaded range, but I also found that Bromus response to soil biota removal varied considerably by site.

In Chapters 2 and 3, I examined how methods used during restoration (application of stockpiled soil and inoculation with soil biota) affected native and non-native plant growth in field plots. I found that native plant biomass and non-native plant biomass both tended to increase when soil abiotic stress was ameliorated through the addition of deeper stockpiled soil. In addition, both native and non-native grasses responded positively to the use of local soil an as inoculant, while non-native forbs responded negatively to local soil inoculum. However, native plants only received significant benefits from inoculation when targeted application to native seedling transplants was used. Commercial mycorrhizal fungal inoculum did not affect plant growth. In studies of both stockpiled soil addition and soil inoculation, year was an important factor in determining plant responses. Variation in effects by year may reflect differences in precipitation timing or amount, or changes associated with plant and soil biota growth over time.

In Chapter 4, I used a greenhouse experiment to examine how one type of soil biota, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), influenced plant-plant interactions. I also manipulated abiotic stress (soil phosphorus availability) and plant provenance (stress-tolerant ecotype versus competitive ecotype) to assess whether these factors influenced AMF-mediated interactions among plants. I found that allowing or denying AMF hyphal access between neighboring pots altered plant reproduction. Inflorescence production was substantially decreased when hyphal access was allowed between two stress-tolerant plants. In addition, when hyphal access was permitted from a stress-tolerant plant to a competitive plant, the competitive plant flowered slightly sooner, whereas allowing hyphal access between two stress-tolerant plants led to slightly slower flowering. These results did not appear to be driven by abiotic stress or plant nutrition. It is possible that AMF transmission of infochemicals may play a role in regulating plant phenology and reproduction; however, further research in this area is needed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rice, Kevin J.
Commitee: Eviner, Valerie T., Scow, Kate M.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Ecology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Soil sciences
Keywords: Competition, Mycorrhizal fungi, Plant invasion, Restoration, Soil microbes, Stress
Publication Number: 3706585
ISBN: 978-1-321-80603-8
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