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Plant-soil feedback and local adaptation along soil fertility gradients


In a process known as plant-soil feedback, plants can modify soil microbial communities in ways that differentially affect the performance of subsequent generations of plants. Recent studies suggest that plant-soil feedbacks may play an important role in plant community assembly and functioning, affecting plant species co-existence, primary productivity, succession and plant invasions. However, we still lack a basic understanding of how plant-soil feedbacks vary between different habitats and soil types. Moreover, plant-soil feedbacks may not only affect community and ecosystem-level processes but may also contribute to evolutionary dynamics within species and affect genetic diversity. The overarching aim of this project is to assess variation in the strength and direction of plant-soil feedbacks along soil fertility gradients in temperate grassland ecosystems at local through to large spatial scales. The proposal includes high-quality training and knowledge exchange between three countries. By combining concepts and experimental approaches from different disciplines, such as plant ecology, soil science, population biology and evolutionary and microbial ecology, we will build a mechanistic framework to predict plant-soil feedbacks in different environmental contexts and to assess their contribution to the maintenance of genetic diversity within grassland plant species. Collectively, improved knowledge of plant-soil feedbacks along soil gradients will enhance our capacity to identify those ecosystems most vulnerable to human impacts, such as invasions and land use change, and will enhance conservation and restoration of natural habitats. This proposal contributes to addressing one of the most pertinent societal challenges – maintenance of biodiversity in the face of global change – and includes a range of activities to engage with different audiences and stakeholders on the topic of soil biodiversity.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/ecology
  • /social sciences/sociology/demography/fertility
  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/soil science
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/ecology/ecosystems
  • /social sciences/economics and business/economics/production economics/productivity

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Ulikooli 18
51005 Tartu
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 154 193,28