Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Why are Australia's shrublands like 'knee-high tropical rainforests'?
by Staff Writers
Montreal, Canada (SPX) Jan 13, 2017

This is a view of typical South-Australian shrubland. Image courtesy Etienne Laliberte.

Some of the Earth's ecosystems host a disproportionately high number of plant species, and infertile shrublands in warm semi-arid regions support 20 per cent of the world's plant species on five percent of the land surface. In particular, some shrublands in South-Western Australia are so species-rich that some botanists refer to them as "knee-high tropical rainforests."

How a large number of plant species can successfully coexist while competing for space and limiting resources has puzzled ecologists for decades. In a new paper published this week in the prestigious journal Science, a team of researchers from Australia, Canada, Sweden and Panama, led by Associate Professor Etienne Laliberte from Universite de Montreal's Department of Biological Sciences, suggest that part of the answer for such high plant diversity resides in the myriad of root-associated organisms that live in soils.

Plant roots constantly interact with a wide range of different soil organisms. While some of these organisms are harmful and eat roots or cause diseases, others are beneficial and enhance nutrient acquisition and protect roots against pathogens.

"The effects that specific groups of soil biota have on individual plant performance have been studied intensively, especially in agricultural systems," said Laliberte. "However, until now the collective influence of soil biota for the maintenance of plant species diversity in natural vegetation was poorly known."

The researchers selected a large number of plant species from a very high diversity shrubland in South-Western Australia, and exposed plants from each of these species to soil biota collected either from the rooting zone of plants of its own species or from other species.

"We found that some plant species grew better in their 'own' soils, yet many others actually performed best when exposed to soils from other species," said Laliberte. "Using simulations, we showed that these complex interactions between plants mediated by soil biota equalised growth differences between plant species, thus promoting their long-term coexistence."

The study highlights the important role that soil biota can play in the maintenance of plant diversity in species-rich ecosystems.

Teste, F. P., Kardol, P., Turner, B. L., Wardle, D. A., Zemunik, G., Renton, M. and E. Laliberte (2017). Plant-soil feedback and the maintenance of diversity in Mediterranean-climate shrublands. Science. doi:

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
University of Montreal
Forestry News - Global and Local News, Science and Application

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Microbes rule in 'knee-high tropical rainforests'
Panama City, Panama (SPX) Jan 13, 2017
Rainforests on infertile wet soils support more than half of all plant species. Shrublands on infertile dry soils in southwestern Australia, jokingly called "knee-high tropical rainforests", support another 20 percent of all plants. Nutrient scarcity is the common denominator. In both ecosystems plants team up with soil bacteria or fungi to gather nutrients more efficiently. However, the p ... read more

Nepal sacks quake reconstruction chief

Memory of lost Cyprus home haunts three generations

Six climbers die of cold climbing Guatemala volcano

Debt traps threaten Nepal quake victims

2-D materials enhance a 3-D world

New active filaments mimic biology to transport nano-cargo

Researchers reveal world's most precise metronome

For chemicals, mega is out and bio is in

Changing rainfall patterns linked to water security in India

Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

Study: U.S. water affordability crisis on the horizon

Great Barrier Reef almost drowned; climate implications

Arctic shrews, parasites indicate climate change effect on ecosystems

French satellite spots Antarctic caravan

Airborne thermometer to measure Arctic temperatures

When the Arctic coast retreats, life in the shallow water areas drastically changes

Europe urged to expand pesticide ban for bees' sake

Tiny plants with huge potential

Pressures from grazers hastens ecosystem collapse from drought

Russia's Vavilov institute, guardian of world's lost plants

New magma modeling aids search for copper

Rain slackens across Thailand's flood-hit south

Floods sever overland routes to Thailand's south

Worst rain 'in 30 years' heaps misery on flood-hit Thai south

Conservation practices may leave African indigenous populations behind

Draining huge African peatland a threat to climate

Five Malian soldiers killed by landmine

Reshuffle in I.Coast, security chiefs out after mutiny

A research framework for tracing human migration events after 'out of Africa' origins

Hair today, hungover tomorrow as young Japanese come of age

New study finds evolution of brain and tooth size were not linked in humans

Ancient DNA can both diminish and defend modern minds

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement