Implications of intraspecific variation in soil microbes on Solidago performance

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Eastern Illinois University
This study explored the implications of intraspecific variation in soil microbes on the performance of Solidago altissima, a North American species that has become invasive across several continents. This research explored how different clones of Solidago altissima were associated with bacterial and fungal soil microbial communities, which influenced plant performance. In a common garden of 24 Solidago altissima clones, I analyzed the relationship between soil microbial communities, foliar chemistry, clone genetic relatedness, and plant performance. My methods included analysis of soil microbial communities (bacterial and fungal), genetic distances among clones to assess relatedness, and measures of plant performance (light interception, plant stress, leaf traits). I found significant intraspecific variation in both soil bacterial and fungal communities and this was linked to differences in foliar chemistry and genetic relationships among the clones. Foliar chemical composition was related to soil bacterial community composition. However, the fungal community composition was related to genetic relatedness among the Solidago clones. Soil fungi were also related to several measures of plant performance, including light interception and stress. This study highlights the complex interaction between microbial community variation and intraspecific variation in plants and their significant ecological implications for plant performance. My results argue that we need to consider intraspecific variation alongside interspecific differences in soil microbial communities in ecological studies.
intraspecific, variation, soil microbes, Solidago altissima, bacterial, fungal