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  1. Abstract

    Roots are essential to the diversity and functioning of plant communities, but trade‐offs in rooting strategies are still poorly understood.

    We evaluated existing frameworks of rooting strategy trade‐offs and tested their underlying assumptions, guided by the hypothesis that community‐level rooting strategies are best described by a combination of variation in organ‐level traits, plant‐level root:shoot allocation and symbiosis‐level mycorrhizal dependency. We tested this hypothesis using data on plant community structure, above‐ and below‐ground biomass, eight root traits including mycorrhizal colonisation and soil properties from an edaphic gradient driven by elevation and water availability in sandhills prairie, Nebraska, USA.

    We found multidimensional trade‐offs in rooting strategies represented by a two‐way productivity‐durability trade‐off axis (captured by root length density and root dry matter content) and a three‐way resource acquisition trade‐off between specific root length, root:shoot mass ratio and mycorrhizal dependence. Variation in rooting strategies was driven to similar extents by interspecific differences and intraspecific responses to soil properties.

    Organ‐level traits alone were insufficient to capture community‐level trade‐offs in rooting strategies across the edaphic gradient. Instead, trait variation encompassing organ, plant and symbiosis levels revealed that consideration of whole‐plant phenotypic integration is essential to defining multidimensional trade‐offs shaping the functional variation of root systems.

    Read the freePlain Language Summaryfor this article on the Journal blog.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 2, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Plant genotype is recognized to contribute to variations in microbial community structure in the rhizosphere, soil adherent to roots. However, the extent to which the viral community varies has remained poorly understood and has the potential to contribute to variation in soil microbial communities. Here we cultivated replicates of two Zea mays genotypes, parviglumis and B73, in a greenhouse and harvested the rhizobiome (rhizoplane and rhizosphere) to identify the abundance of cells and viruses as well as rhizobiome microbial and viral community using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and genome resolved metagenomics. Our results demonstrated that viruses exceeded microbial abundance in the rhizobiome of parviglumis and B73 with a significant variation in both the microbial and viral community between the two genotypes. Of the viral contigs identified only 4.5% (n = 7) of total viral contigs were shared between the two genotypes, demonstrating that plants even at the level of genotype can significantly alter the surrounding soil viral community. An auxiliary metabolic gene associated with glycoside hydrolase (GH5) degradation was identified in one viral metagenome-assembled genome (vOTU) identified in the B73 rhizobiome infecting Propionibacteriaceae (Actinobacteriota) further demonstrating the viral contribution in metabolic potential for carbohydrate degradation and carbon cycling in the rhizosphere. This variation demonstrates the potential of plant genotype to contribute to microbial and viral heterogeneity in soil systems and harbors genes capable of contributing to carbon cycling in the rhizosphere.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Large terrestrial herbivorous mammals (LTH‐mammals) influence plant community structure by affecting seedling establishment in mature tropical forests. Many of these LTH‐mammals frequent secondary forests, but their effects on seedling establishment in them are understudied, hindering our understanding of how LTH‐mammals influence forest regeneration in human‐modified landscapes.

    We tested the hypothesis that the strength of LTH‐mammals' effects on seedling establishment depends on landscape protection, forest successional stage and plant species' traits using a manipulative field experiment in six 1‐ha sites with varying successional age and landscape protection. In each site, we established 40 seedling plot‐pairs, with one plot excluding LTH‐mammals and one not, and monitored seedlings of 116 woody species for 26 months.

    We found significant effects of LTH‐mammal exclusion on seedling survival contingent upon the protection of forests at the landscape level and forest stage. After 26 months, survival differences between LTH‐mammal exclusion and non‐exclusion treatments were greater in protected than unprotected landscapes. Additionally, plant species' traits were related to the LTH‐mammals' differential effects, as LTH‐mammals reduced the survival of seedlings of larger‐seeded species the most. Overall, LTH‐mammals' effects translated into significant shifts in community composition as seedling communities inside and outside the exclosures diverged. Moreover, lower density and higher species diversity were found as early as 12 and 18 months outside than inside exclosures.

    Synthesis and applications.Insight into the interactions between LTH‐mammals and seedling communities in forest regeneration can be instrumental in planning effective restoration efforts. We highlight the importance of landscape protection in seedling survival and the role of LTH‐mammals in promoting seedling diversity in mature forests but also in secondary successional forests. The findings suggest that conservation efforts and possibly trophic rewilding can be important approaches for preserving diversity and influencing the trajectory of secondary tropical forest succession. However, we also caution that an overabundance of LTH‐mammals may adversely impact the pace of forest succession due to their preference for large‐seeded species. Therefore, a comprehensive wildlife management plan is indispensable. Additionally, longer term studies on LTH‐mammals are necessary to understand the effects of temporal fluctuations that are undetected in short‐term studies.

     
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  4. Summary

    The Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI) provides an optical indicator of photosynthetic light‐use efficiency, photoprotection, and stress in plants. Although PRI can be applied in remote sensing, its interpretation depends on irradiance, which is hard to obtain from satellite or airborne imagery.

    To quantify forest photoprotective responses remotely, we developed a framework for modeling and interpreting PRI‐light responses of individual trees and species using airborne imaging spectrometry coupled with georeferenced forest inventory data from a temperate broad‐leaved forest. We derived an irradiance proxy, used hierarchical modeling to analyze PRI‐light responses, and developed a framework of physiological interpretations of model parameters as facultative and constitutive components of photoprotection.

    Photochemical Reflectance Index declined with illumination, and PRI‐light relationships varied with landscape position and among tree crowns and species. More sun‐exposed foliage had lower intercepts and slopes of the relationship, indicating greater constitutive, but less facultative, photoprotection.

    We show that tree photoprotective strategies can be quantified at multiple scales using airborne hyperspectral data in structurally complex forests. Our findings and approach have important implications for the remote sensing of forest stress by offering a new way to assess functional diversity through dynamic differences in photoprotection and photosynthetic downregulation and providing previsual indicators of forest stress.

     
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  5. Abstract

    One mechanism proposed to explain high species diversity in tropical systems is strong negative conspecific density dependence (CDD), which reduces recruitment of juveniles in proximity to conspecific adult plants. Although evidence shows that plant-specific soil pathogens can drive negative CDD, trees also form key mutualisms with mycorrhizal fungi, which may counteract these effects. Across 43 large-scale forest plots worldwide, we tested whether ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibit weaker negative CDD than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. We further tested for conmycorrhizal density dependence (CMDD) to test for benefit from shared mutualists. We found that the strength of CDD varies systematically with mycorrhizal type, with ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibiting higher sapling densities with increasing adult densities than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. Moreover, we found evidence of positive CMDD for tree species of both mycorrhizal types. Collectively, these findings indicate that mycorrhizal interactions likely play a foundational role in global forest diversity patterns and structure.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    Seedling recruitment can be strongly affected by the composition of nearby plant species. At the neighborhood scale (on the order of tens of meters), adult conspecifics can modify soil chemistry and the presence of host microbes (pathogens and mutualists) across their combined canopy area or rooting zones. At local or small spatial scales (on the order of one to few meters), conspecific seed or seedling density can influence the strength of intraspecific light and resource competition and also modify the density‐dependent spread of natural enemies such as pathogens or invertebrate predators. Intrinsic correlation between proximity to adult conspecifics (i.e., recruitment neighborhood) and local seedling density, arising from dispersal, makes it difficult to separate the independent and interactive factors that contribute to recruitment success. Here, we present a field experiment in which we manipulated both the recruitment neighborhood and seedling density to explore how they interact to influence the growth and survival ofDryobalanops aromatica, a dominant ectomycorrhizal tree species in a Bornean tropical rainforest. First, we found that both local seedling density and recruitment neighborhood had effects on performance ofDaromaticaseedlings, though the nature of these impacts varied between growth and survival. Second, we did not find strong evidence that the effect of density on seedling survival is dependent on the presence of conspecific adult trees. However, accumulation of mutualistic fungi beneath conspecifics adults does facilitate establishment ofDaromaticaseedlings. In total, our results suggest that recruitment near adult conspecifics was not associated with a performance cost and may have weakly benefitted recruiting seedlings. Positive effects of conspecifics may be a factor facilitating the regional hyperabundance of this species. Synthesis: Our results provide support for the idea that dominant species in diverse forests may escape the localized recruitment suppression that limits abundance in rarer species.

     
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  7. Abstract

    While work in temperate forests suggests that there are consistent differences in plant–soil feedback (PSF) between plants with arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal associations, it is unclear whether these differences exist in tropical rainforests. We tested the effects of mycorrhizal type, phylogenetic relationships to overstory species, and soil fertility on the growth of tree seedlings in a tropical Bornean rainforest with a high diversity of both ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal trees. We found that ectomycorrhizal tree seedlings had higher growth in soils conditioned by close relatives and that this was associated with higher mycorrhizal colonization. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal tree seedlings generally grew more poorly in soils conditioned by close relatives. For ectomycorrhizal species, the phylogenetic trend was insensitive to soil fertility. For arbuscular mycorrhizal seedlings, however, the effect of growing in soils conditioned by close relatives became increasingly negative as soil fertility increased. Our results demonstrate consistent effects of mycorrhizal type on plant–soil feedbacks across forest biomes. The positive effects of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis may help explain biogeographic variation across tropical forests, such as familial dominance of the Dipterocarpaceae in southeast Asia. However, positive feedbacks also raise questions about the role of PSFs in maintaining tropical diversity.

     
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