Tree range expansion may be enhanced by escape from negative plant–soil feedbacks

TitleTree range expansion may be enhanced by escape from negative plant–soil feedbacks
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMcCarthy-Neumann S, Ibáñez I
Pagination2637 - 2649
Date Published12/2012

Many plant species are expected to shift their distributional ranges in response to global warming. As they arrive at new sites, migrant plant species may be released from their natural soil pathogens and/or deprived of key symbiotic organisms. Under such scenarios plant–soil feedbacks (PSF) will likely have an impact on plant species’ ability to establish in new areas. In this study we evaluated the role that PSF may play on the migratory potential of dominant temperate tree species at the northern limit of their distributional range in the Great Lakes region of North America. To test their ability to expand their current range, we assessed seedling establishment, i.e., survival, of local and potential migrant tree species in a field transplant experiment. To test for the presence and strength of PSF, we also assessed seedling survival during establishment in a greenhouse experiment, where the potential migrant species were grown in soils collected within and beyond their distributional ranges. The combination of experiments provided us with a comprehensive understanding of the role of PSF in seedling establishment in new areas. In the field, we found that survival for most migrant species was similar to those of the local community, ensuring that these species could establish in areas beyond their current range. In the greenhouse, we found that the majority of species experienced strong negative conspecific feedbacks mediated by soil biota, but these responses occurred for most species only in low light conditions. Lastly, our combined results indicate that migrant tree species can colonize and may even have enhanced short-term recruitment beyond their ranges due to a lack of conspecific adults (and the resulting negative PSF from these adults).