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Phylogenetic signals and predictability in plant-soil feedbacks

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  • Elizabeth M Wandrag
  • Sarah E Bates
  • Luke G Barrett
  • Jane A Catford
  • Peter H Thrall
  • Wim H van der Putten
  • R. P. Duncan


Publication details

JournalThe New phytologist
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Jul 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 3 Jul 2020
Number of pages10
Early online date3/07/20
Original languageEnglish


There is strong evidence for a phylogenetic signal in the degree to which species share co-evolved biotic partners and in the outcomes of biotic interactions. This implies there should be a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of feedbacks between plants and soil microbiota they cultivate. However, attempts to identify a phylogenetic signal in plant-soil feedbacks have produced mixed results. We clarify how phylogenetic signals could arise in plant-soil feedbacks and use a recent compilation of data from feedback experiments to identify: 1) whether there is a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of plant-soil feedbacks; and 2) whether any signal arises through directional or divergent changes in feedback outcomes with evolutionary time. We find strong evidence for a divergent phylogenetic signal in feedback outcomes. Distantly related plant species show more divergent responses to each other's soil microbiota than closely related plant species. The pattern of divergence implies occasional co-evolutionary shifts in how plants interact with soil microbiota, with strongly contrasting feedback responses among some plant lineages. Our results highlight that it is difficult to predict feedback outcomes from phylogeny alone, other than to say that more closely related species tend to have more similar responses.

Bibliographical note

© 2020, The Author(s).

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