A trait-based framework linking the soil metabolome to plant–soil feedbacks

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By modifying the biotic and abiotic properties of the soil, plants create soil legacies that can affect vegetation dynamics through plant–soil feedbacks (PSF). PSF are generally attributed to reciprocal effects of plants and soil biota, but these interactions can also drive changes in the identity, diversity and abundance of soil metabolites, leading to more or less persistent soil chemical legacies whose role in mediating PSF has rarely been considered. These chemical legacies may interact with microbial or nutrient legacies to affect species coexistence. Given the ecological importance of chemical interactions between plants and other organisms, a better understanding of soil chemical legacies is needed in community ecology. In this Viewpoint, we aim to: highlight the importance of belowground chemical interactions for PSF; define and integrate soil chemical legacies into PSF research by clarifying how the soil metabolome can contribute to PSF; discuss how functional traits can help predict these plant–soil interactions; propose an experimental approach to quantify plant responses to the soil solution metabolome; and describe a testable framework relying on root economics and seed dispersal traits to predict how plant species affect the soil metabolome and how they could respond to soil chemical legacies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1910-1921
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 03.2024

Bibliographical note

BMD is supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (project no. 470604360). RMC thanks the NSF EPSCoR program, OIA‐1757351, for support. MS is supported by the European Union (ERC, PlantSoilAdapt, 101044424). The authors thank Inés M. Alonso‐Crespo for making the plant illustrations used in Fig. 1 . The authors also thank Dr Robin Heinen and other anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of our manuscript. Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2023 New Phytologist Foundation.

    Research areas

  • allelopathy, belowground interactions, functional traits, litter decomposition, plant–soil feedback, root exudates, seed dispersal
  • Biology
  • Ecosystems Research