Soil inoculation is a powerful tool for the restoration of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the origin of the donor material may differentially influence early- and late-successional plant species. Donor soil from late-succession stages may benefit target plant species due to a higher abundance of soil-borne mutualists. Arable soils, on the other hand, may suppress ruderals as they support more root herbivores that preferentially attack ruderal plant species, while mid-succession soils may be intermediate in their effects on ruderals and target species performance. We hypothesized that a mixture of arable and late-succession inocula may outperform pure late-successional inocula for restoration, by promoting late-successional target plants, while simultaneously reducing ruderal species’ performance.
We conducted a glasshouse experiment and tested the growth of ruderal and target plant species on pure and mixed inocula. The inocula were derived from arable fields, mid-succession grasslands and late-succession heathlands and we created a replacement series testing different pairwise mixitures for each of these inocula types (ratios: 100:0, 75:25, 50:50, 25:75, 0:100 of inoculum A and B respectively).
In general, we found that a higher proportion of heathland material led to a higher aboveground biomass of target plant species, while responses of ruderal species were variable. We found synergistic effects when specific inocula were mixed. In particular, a 50:50 mixture of heathland and arable soil in the inoculum led to a significant reduction in ruderal species biomass relative to the two respective pure inocula. The overall response was driven by Myosotis arvensis, since the other two ruderal species were not significantly affected.
Mixing inocula from different successional stages can lead to synergistic effects on restoration, but this highly depends on the specific combination of inocula, the mixing ratio and plant species. This suggest that specific inocula may need to be developed in order to rapidly restore different plant communities.
Potential for synergy in soil inoculation for nature restoration by mixing inocula from different successional stages
Wubs, E. R. J. (Creator), Melchers, P. (Creator) & Bezemer, T. M. (Creator), DataverseNL, 01 Dec 2016