Semi-polar root exudates in natural grassland communities

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  • Sophie Dietz
  • Katharina Herz
  • Stefanie Döll
  • Sylvia Haider
  • Ute Jandt
  • Helge Bruelheide
  • Dierk Scheel

In the rhizosphere, plants are exposed to a multitude of different biotic and abiotic factors, to which they respond by exuding a wide range of secondary root metabolites. So far, it has been unknown to which degree root exudate composition is species-specific and is affected by land use, the local impact and local neighborhood under field conditions. In this study, root exudates of 10 common grassland species were analyzed, each five of forbs and grasses, in the German Biodiversity Exploratories using a combined phytometer and untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) approach. Redundancy analysis and hierarchical clustering revealed a large set of semi-polar metabolites common to all species in addition to species-specific metabolites. Chemical richness and exudate composition revealed that forbs, such as Plantago lanceolata and Galium species, exuded more species-specific metabolites than grasses. Grasses instead were primarily affected by environmental conditions. In both forbs and grasses, plant functional traits had only a minor impact on plant root exudation patterns. Overall, our results demonstrate the feasibility of obtaining and untargeted profiling of semi-polar metabolites under field condition and allow a deeper view in the exudation of plants in a natural grassland community.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)5526-5541
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We also thank Eva Breitschwerdt for collecting the seeds and her advice in selecting the plots. We thank all helpers who participated in the field work as well as during the preparation of the phytometers: Mathias Baudis, Eva Breitschwerdt, Lucie Gack, Anne-Sophie Gimpel, Maria Köhler, Ines Lassowskat, Mathias Meyer, Sebastian Palm, Franziska Patzold, Isa Plath, Tobias Proß, Ina Reichelt, Jana Schulze, Maria Sporbert, Ricardo SchD?ps, Selma Gomes Vieira and Anja Zeuner. We are indebted to the helpers André Dietz, Siska Herklotz, and Sylvia Krüger for their participation in acquiring metabolomics data. We further thank Hendrik Treutler for providing MetFamily as metabolite family classification tool. We also thank Steffen Neumann for his support in bioinformatic services. The work has been funded by the DFG Priority Program 1374 Infrastructure‐Biodiversity‐Exploratories [Project BE LOW, SCHE 235/16-3 and BR 1698/11-3]. Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental offices of Baden‐Württemberg, ThD?ringen, and Brandenburg [according to § 72 BbgNatSchG].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.