Hot Topics

Digging deep for biodiversity

Hot Topics in Ecology

Digging deep for biodiversity

Applying plant-soil-microbe research to conservation and restoration
Synthesis by Dr C Birnbaum, Tulane University, Dr E Egidi, La Trobe University, Prof B Singh, Western Sydney University
Ectomycorrhizal fungi on eucalypt roots. Photo by Ruvinie Withana.

The importance of soil microbes in community and ecosystem processes is widely acknowledged and yet there are few attempts to incorporate microbes into conservation and restoration practice. The oversight hampers efforts to conserve and restore native ecosystems in the face of increased environmental degradation and environmental change.

Native and non-native soil microbes interact with native and non-native plants and these interactions have implications for conservation and restoration. Invasive plants often impede conservation and restoration efforts particularly where soil mutualists co-invade. For example, the invasion of pines across the southern hemisphere has been facilitated by the spread of its ectomycorrhizal fungus, and therefore control of invasive pines may be achieved by controlling its fungus. Similarly, the recent outbreak of myrtle rust in eastern Australia, a fungal plant pathogen of global significance, is a timely reminder of the significant role of research to manage the consequences of invasion by plant pathogens in soil.

Emerging tools offer a whole of microbial community perspective. For example, new tools identified that the native critically-endangered Wollemi pine associates with species-specific fungal communities whose presence is correlated with translocation success. There are efforts too, to understand how plant-soil-microbe interactions might be influenced by other drivers of relevance to conservation and restoration. For example, recent research in temperate grasslands in southern Australia suggests fire can affect soil fungal community composition, possibly through disruption of plant-fungal associations.

New technologies, such as next generation sequencing and genome editing tools to alter gene function, allow exploration and utilisation of soil microbial communities like never before. Coupled with field-based experiments these tools offer a deeper understanding of the contribution of soil microbes to function and biodiversity outcomes of restoration and conservation. 

Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Dr Christina Birnbaum
Phone: +1 5048628940

Name: Dr Eleonora Egidi
Phone: +61 3 9479 2496

Name: Professor Brajesh Singh
Phone: +61 2 4570 1329

Date approved: 
Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 13:54
ID Title Location Type
9394 Burgess, Treena I., et al. (2016) Tree invasions and biosecurity: eco-evolutionary dynamics of hitchhiking fungi. AoB Plants 8. Global Review
9395 Doudna, Jennifer A., and Emmanuelle Charpentier. (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9. Science 346.6213: 1258096. NA Review
9353 Janos, D. P., Scott, J., Aristizábal, C., & Bowman, D. M. (2013). Arbuscular-mycorrhizal networks inhibit Eucalyptus tetrodonta seedlings in rain forest soil microcosms. Plos One, 8, e57716. Australia Manipulative experiment
9354 Standish, R. J., Stokes, B. A., Tibbett, M., & Hobbs, R. J. (2007). Seedling response to phosphate addition and inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizas and the implications for old-field restoration in Western Australia. Envir. Exper. Bot. 61, 58-65. Australia Manipulative experiment
9355 Rigg, J. L., Offord, C. A., Zimmer, H., Anderson, I. C., Singh, B. K., & Powell, J. R. (2017). Conservation by translocation: establishment of Wollemi pine and associated microbial communities in novel environments. Plant Soil, 411, 209-225. Australia Manipulative experiment
9356 Birnbaum, C., Bissett, A., Thrall, P. H., & Leishman, M. R. (2014). Invasive legumes encounter similar soil fungal communities in their non-native and native ranges in Australia. Soil Biol.Biochem.76, 210-217. Australia Observational study
9358 Hamonts, K., Bissett, A., Macdonald, B. C., Barton, P. S., Manning, A. D., & Young, A. (2017). Effects of ecological restoration on soil microbial diversity in a temperate grassy woodland. Appl. Soil Ecol. 117, 117-128. Australia Observational study
9359 Prober, S. M., Bissett, A., Walker, C., Wiehl, G., McIntyre, S., & Tibbett, M. (2015). Spatial structuring of arbuscular mycorrhizal communities in benchmark and modified temperate eucalypt woodlands. Mycorrhiza, 25, 41-54. Australia Observational study
9360 Dickie, I. A., Nuñez, M. A., Pringle, A., Lebel, T., Tourtellot, S. G., & Johnston, P. R. (2016). Towards management of invasive ectomycorrhizal fungi. Biol. Inv. 18, 3383-3395. Australia Review
9361 Wubs, E. J., van der Putten, W. H., Bosch, M., & Bezemer, T. M. (2016). Soil inoculation steers restoration of terrestrial ecosystems. Nature plants, 2, 16107. Europe Large-scale field experiment and mesocosm experiment
9362 Calderón, Kadiya, et al. (2017) Effectiveness of ecological rescue for altered soil microbial communities and functions. The ISME journal 11.1: 272-283. Europe Manipulative experiment
9363 Romero-Olivares, A. L., Allison, S. D., & Treseder, K. K. (2017). Soil microbes and their response to experimental warming over time: A meta-analysis of field studies. Soil Biol. Biochem. 107, 32-40. Global Review
9364 Koziol, L., & Bever, J. D. (2016). The missing link in grassland restoration: arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi inoculation increases plant diversity and accelerates succession. J. Appl. Ecol.54, 1301-1309 North America Manipulative experiment
9365 Fajardo, L., Cáceres, A., & Arrindell, P. (2014). Arbuscular mycorrhizae, a tool to enhance the recovery and re-introduction of Juglans venezuelensis Manning, an endemic tree on the brink of extinction. Symbiosis, 64, 63-71. South America (Venezuela) Manipulative experiment
9366 Egidi, Eleonora, et al. (2016) Fire regime, not time-since-fire, affects soil fungal community diversity and composition in temperate grasslands. Fems microb. Lett. 363.17. Australia Observational study