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Title: Microbes, mutualism, and range margins: testing the fitness consequences of soil microbial communities across and beyond a native plant's range

Interactions between plants and soil fungi and bacteria are ubiquitous and have large effects on individual plant fitness. However, the degree to which spatial variation in soil microbial communities modulates plant species’ distributions remains largely untested.

Using the California native plantClarkia xantianassp.xantianawe paired glasshouse and field reciprocal transplants of plant populations and soils to test whether plant–microbe interactions affect the plant’s geographic range limit and whether there is local adaptation between plants and soil microbe communities.

In the field and glasshouse, one of the two range interior inocula had a positive effect on plant fitness. In the field, this benefit was especially pronounced at the range edge and beyond, suggesting possible mutualist limitation. In the glasshouse, soil inocula from beyond‐range tended to increase plant growth, suggesting microbial enemy release beyond the range margin. Amplicon sequencing revealed stark variation in microbial communities across the range boundary.

Plants dispersing beyond their range limit are likely to encounter novel microbial communities. InC. x. xantiana, our results suggest that range expansion may be facilitated by fewer pathogens, but could also be hindered by a lack of mutualists. Both negative and positive plant–microbe interactions will likely affect contemporary range shifts.

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Journal Name:
New Phytologist
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 2886-2900
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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