Early-successional vegetation changes after roadside prairie restoration modify processes related with soil functioning by changing microbial functional diversity

TitleEarly-successional vegetation changes after roadside prairie restoration modify processes related with soil functioning by changing microbial functional diversity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsGarcía-Palacios P, Bowker MA, Chapman SJ, Maestre FT, Soliveres S, Gallardo A, Valladares F, Guerrero C, Escudero A
JournalSoil Biology and BiochemistrySoil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume43
Pagination1245-1253
Date Published2011/06/01/
ISBN Number0038-0717
Keywordscommunity level physiological profiles, Dominant species, Plant–soil interactions, restoration, Roadside slopes, Secondary succession, Soil functioning
Abstract

Because of their rapidly changing vegetation dynamics and harsh environmental conditions, roadside prairies in semi-arid regions represent an exceptional study system in which to investigate the effects of plant-soil interactions on ecosystem functioning. We conducted a two-year field experiment on two roadside embankments in semi-arid central Spain differing in construction age to answer the following questions: (i) do commonly used restoration treatments (hydroseeding, fertilization and irrigation) affect soil microbial functional diversity and processes related to soil functioning (basal respiration, total N and P and in situ N availability rate)? (ii) what portion of plant effects on processes related to soil functioning is mediated indirectly by microbial functional diversity? Except for a small and negative irrigation effect on the microbial functional diversity in the three-year old site, the restoration treatments employed did not affect this variable. Fertilization increased plant diversity, an effect likely mediated by the enhanced soil nutrient availability with this treatment at early stages of secondary succession. In contrast, hydroseeding did not affect processes related to soil functioning. The total effect of the plant community on these processes was higher than that of the microbial functional diversity alone, suggesting that the studied slopes are to the greater extent regulated by plants. However, soil microbes are a key proximate influence in the system, as the indirect effects of plant community on soil functioning processes mediated by soil microbes represented 37–41% of the total plant effects observed. Our results indicate that the restoration of recently built slopes can potentially be improved with treatments that promote plant compositional shifts, such as fertilization, or alter soil function, such as the enhancement of soil microbial functional diversity. They also highlight that plant-soil interactions are an important process that can be manipulated for restoration purposes in early-successional stages, especially in nutrient-poor semi-arid ecosystems.