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Biotic Interactions in the Rhizosphere: Effects on Plant Growth and Herbivore Development

  • M. Bonkowski
  • S. Scheu
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 173)

Summary

Considerable progress has been made in understanding specific interactions of plant roots with rhizosphere microorganisms and interactions with the soil fauna. Due to their function in nutrient mineralization, the role of soil organisms is usually considered important in long-term processes such as decomposition of litter materials. It would be incorrect, however, to assume that effects of decomposer animals on plant performance solely result from improved plant uptake of nutrients. In recent years, our view has profoundly changed, giving soil organisms a much more active role by interacting with living plants, their symbionts and pathogens and thereby shaping ecosystem processes. It has to be appreciated that decomposer animals consist of very different functional groups which differentially affect microbial diversity and function in the rhizosphere, thereby modifying plant physiology, morphology and phenology. These interactions cascade up to herbivores above the ground, ultimately affecting the whole aboveground food web. In addition to changing bottom-up forces on the herbivore community, the decomposer system may strengthen top-down forces on aboveground herbivores by subsidizing generalist predators with prey. The full implications of this integrated view of terrestrial ecosystem function have yet to be explored. In arable systems, intelligent management practices have to be developed employing the decomposer community to help in plant nutrition, to foster plant defence against herbivores and to support the control of herbivore pest populations. Current practices based on soil tillage and inorganic nutrient inputs certainly are inadequate in this respect. In more natural ecosystems the role of the decomposer community as driving agent for plant competition and community composition via modifying the rhizosphere environment needs considerably more attention. Microorganisms have been identified as an important structuring force of natural plant communities in recent years; however, those organisms that regulate the structure and functioning of microbial communities so far have been widely neglected. A comprehensive understanding of regulating forces in arable and natural systems will not be achieved without integrating the animal community below the ground.

Keywords

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungus Soil Biol Biotic Interaction Generalist Predator Decomposer Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Bonkowski
  • S. Scheu

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