Root-feeding nematodes play an important role in structuring the composition of natural plant communities. Little is known about the role of intra- and interspecific interactions in determining the abundance of root-feeding nematodes in natural ecosystems. We examined interactions between two ectoparasitic root-feeding nematodes on two plant species: a good host plant for both nematode species and a good host for only one of the nematodes. We tested the hypothesis that root herbivore competitiveness depends on host suitability and related the experimental results to field data. In a greenhouse, we added different densities of the nematodes Tylenchorhynchus microphasmis and Tylenchorhynchus ventralis to Ammophila arenaria (the good host for both) and Carex arenaria (a good host for T. microphasmis only). Addition of T. ventralis did not significantly affect multiplication of T. microphasmis on both plant species. In contrast, on A. arenaria, T. ventralis experienced interspecific competition. However, on C. arenaria, T. microphasmis facilitated multiplication of T. ventralis. To explain this effect, we studied systemic plant-mediated effects in a split-root experiment. Nematode addition to one root compartment did not significantly influence nematode multiplication in the other root compartment, irrespective of nematode species identity. Therefore, the observed nematode interactions were not related to induced changes in the roots. In a two-choice experiment we tested whether host suitability was related to root attractiveness. Both nematode species were attracted to seedlings of A. arenaria, but not to C. arenaria. The low multiplication of T. ventralis on C. arenaria could be related to poor attraction to the roots. However, the poor attraction of T. microphasmis cannot be related to poor host suitability. Adding T. ventralis reduced shoot biomass of A. arenaria more than T. microphasmis did, whereas for C. arenaria the effect was the reverse. The interaction of the two nematodes on A. arenaria and C. arenaria shoot biomass was insignificant. However, the effect on root biomass of A. arenaria was interactive; adding T. ventralis to plants with high inoculation densities of T. microphasmis further decreased root biomass. Adding T. microphasmis further decreased root biomass of plants inoculated with low levels of T. ventralis. Depending on host plant identity, interactions between root-feeding nematodes may lead to competition or facilitation. Our results suggest that facilitation by T. microphasmis contributes to persistence of T. ventralis on C. arenaria. Thus, the population dynamics of root-feeding nematodes is influenced both by host plant identity and the presence of other root-feeding nematodes.
Brinkman, E. P., Duyts, H., & Van der Putten, W. H. (2008). Interactions between root-feeding nematodes depend on plant species identity. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 40(9), 2186-2193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2008.01.023