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Rhizosphere control of soil nitrogen cycling: a key component of plant economic strategies

Abstract : Understanding how plant species influence soil nutrient cycling is a major theme in terrestrial ecosystem ecology. However, the prevailing paradigm has mostly focused on litter decomposition, while rhizosphere effects on soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition have attracted little attention. Using a dual 13 C/ 15 N labeling approach in a 'common garden' glasshouse experiment, we investigated how the economic strategies of 12 grassland plant species (graminoids, forbs and legumes) drive soil nitrogen (N) cycling via rhizosphere processes, and how this in turn affects plant N acquisition and growth. Acquisitive species with higher photosynthesis, carbon rhizodeposition and N uptake than conservative species induced a stronger acceleration of soil N cycling through rhizosphere priming of SOM decomposition. This allowed them to take up larger amounts of N and allocate it above ground to promote photosynthesis, thereby sustaining their faster growth. The N 2-fixation ability of legumes enhanced rhizosphere priming by promoting photosynthesis and rhizodeposition. Our study demonstrates that the economic strategies of plant species regulate a plant-soil carbon-nitrogen feedback operating through the rhizosphere. These findings provide novel mechanistic insights into how plant species with contrasting economic strategies sustain their nutrition and growth through regulating the cycling of nutrients by soil microbes in their rhizosphere.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - 4:42:53 PM
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Ludovic Henneron, Paul Kardol, David A Wardle, Camille Cros, Sébastien Fontaine. Rhizosphere control of soil nitrogen cycling: a key component of plant economic strategies. New Phytologist, Wiley, 2020, 228 (4), pp.1269-1282. ⟨10.1111/nph.16760⟩. ⟨hal-03022200⟩

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