About this Research Topic
Above-ground interactions between plants and organisms have served as a foundation of ecological and evolutionary theories. Accumulating evidence suggests that interactions that occur below-ground can have immense influence on eco-evolutionary dynamics of plants. These dynamics consist of a variety of impacts, detrimental or beneficial to plants, and are likely to cascade to above-ground communities and affect ecosystem processes. Despite the increasing awareness among scientists of the importance of below-ground interactions for plant performance and community dynamics, they have received considerably less theoretical and empirical attention compared to above-ground interactions. This knowledge gap hampers our ability to understand and predict the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.
In this Research Topic we aim to highlight the overlooked roles of below-ground interactions and outline their myriad ecological roles, from affecting soil health through impacting plant interactions with above-ground fauna. Using examples from broad taxonomic groups, such as fungi, bacteria, microbes, root-feeders or belowground meso-fauna, we are looking for researchers to address these gaps through articles, reviews, models and conceptual opinions that will tackle the frontiers of below-ground interactions:
Conceptual framework and models to study how below-ground biotic interactions affect ecological processes both below- and above-ground. We invite authors to create general conceptual models that will facilitate development of testable predictions. Broad topics to consider include: the role of below-ground interactions in regulating soil properties and ecosystem function; the abiotic conditions that influence antagonistic and mutualistic below-ground interactions; and how interactions below-ground may propagate through plants to affect species interactions aboveground. These broad topics are of pressing basic and applied interest and each would benefit from an increased dialogue focused on generalizable theory.
Linkages between below- and above-ground communities of plant-associated organisms. The link between above and below-ground interactions is of critical importance in all ecosystems, yet relatively under studied. We encourage authors to submit case studies documenting how biotic interactions in either the above- or below-ground plant compartment influence interactions in the opposite compartment and how the abiotic environment might shift the intensity of theses interactions.
Ecosystem processes and functional ecology. Study of the influence of underground biota on nutrient cycling, and soil health, in non-agricultural systems is sorely needed¬. Of particularly pressing importance is how anthropogenic perturbation including climate change and pesticide application may shift underground communities and thereby affect above-ground communities and entire ecosystems. We specifically call for studies that link communities and organisms, for instance, how might root endophytes affect pollinators, and how are these interactions influenced by climate change or insecticides?
Methods. What are the best methodological approaches available for the study of underground interactions? We invite authors to review current techniques, contribute new methods, or synthesize existing approach from different fields (e.g. acoustic detection of arthropod activity, minirhizotron for the study of plant-root interactions).
Keywords: Below-ground interactions, plant-associated organisms, Community ecology, plant-soil continuum, functional ecology
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