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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00184

Greenhouse- and field-measured plant-soil feedbacks are not correlated

 Leslie E. Forero1, 2*, Josephine Grenzer1, 2,  Johannes Heinze3, 4,  Conrad Schittko3, 4 and  Andrew Kulmatiski1, 2
  • 1Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, United States
  • 2Ecology Center, Utah State University, United States
  • 3Biodiversity Research and Systematic Botany, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 4Berlin Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research, Germany

Plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs) have become a commonly invoked mechanism of plant coexistence and abundance. Yet, most PSF experiments have been performed in greenhouse conditions. To test whether or not greenhouse-measured PSF values are of similar magnitude and positively correlated with field-measured PSFs, we compared PSF values from five different studies that measured PSF values in both greenhouse and field conditions. For 36 plant species, greenhouse-measured PSF values were larger than and not positively correlated with field-measured PSF values. Similarly, these 36 species produced 269 soil-specific PSF values, and for each site there was no positive correlation between these greenhouse- and field-measured PSF values. While PSFs were observed in both greenhouse and field conditions, results provided no support at the soil, site or species level that a positive correlation exists between greenhouse- and field-measured PSF. Further, greenhouse-measured PSF appear to overestimate field-measured PSF. Although from five studies, results strongly suggest that field experiments are needed to understand the role of PSFs in plant communities in natural settings.

Keywords: plant-soil feedback, environmental factors, above-belowground interactions, Experimental environment, field experiment, Greenhouse experiment

Received: 25 Jul 2019; Accepted: 05 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Forero, Grenzer, Heinze, Schittko and Kulmatiski. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Leslie E. Forero, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, United States,