Vol.90, No.4, 2021, pp.1259-1271, doi:10.32604/phyton.2021.014968
Effects of Soil Nutrient Heterogeneity and Earthworms on Aboveground Biomass of Experimental Plant Communities
  • Simei Yao1,2, Yu Jin2,3, Limin Zhang2, Ningfei Lei1,*, Wei Xue2,*, Jinsong Chen3, Qian Zhang2, Feihai Yu1,2
1 College of the Environment, Chengdu University of Technology, Chengdu, 610059, China
2 Institute of Wetland Ecology & Clone Ecology, Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Plant Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation, Taizhou University, Taizhou, 318000, China
3 College of Life Science, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu, 610101, China
* Corresponding Author: Ningfei Lei. Email: ; Wei Xue. Email:
Received 12 November 2020; Accepted 12 January 2021; Issue published 27 April 2021
Soil nutrients are commonly heterogeneously distributed and earthworms are one of the most common soil organisms. While effects of both soil nutrient heterogeneity and earthworms have been well studied, their interactive effect on plant community productivity has rarely been tested. In a greenhouse experiment, we constructed experimental plant communities by sowing seed mixtures of four grasses, two legumes and two forbs in either a heterogeneous soil consisting of low and high nutrient soil patches or a homogeneous soil where the low and high nutrient soil patches were evenly mixed. The earthworm Eisenia fetida was either added to these soils or not. Aboveground biomass of the whole communities, grasses and legumes did not differ between the homogeneous and heterogeneous soils or between the soils with and without earthworms. However, soil nutrient heterogeneity reduced aboveground biomass of forbs, and such an effect did not interact with earthworms. In response to soil heterogeneity and earthworms, biomass ratio of the three functional groups showed similar patterns as that of their biomass. At the patch level, aboveground biomass of the whole community, grasses and legumes were greater in the high than in the low nutrient soil patches within the heterogeneous soil. A similar pattern was found for the forbs, but this was only true in the absence of earthworms. Our results suggest that soil nutrient heterogeneity and earthworms may not influence aboveground biomass of plant communities, despite the fact that they may modify the growth of certain plant functional groups within the community.
Environmental heterogeneity; foraging response; functional group; plant-animal interaction; yield
Cite This Article
Yao, S., Jin, Y., Zhang, L., Lei, N., Xue, W. et al. (2021). Effects of Soil Nutrient Heterogeneity and Earthworms on Aboveground Biomass of Experimental Plant Communities. Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany, 90(4), 1259–1271.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.