Celebrating Soil: A collection of the latest research

This post is from Journal of Ecology Executive Editor Richard Bardgett.

The UN FAO report on the “State of Knowledge on Soil Biodiversity: Status, Challenges, and Potentialities” was released today, the day before World Soil Day. The report represents a truly global effort by soil scientists and ecologists worldwide and presents the best available knowledge on soil biota, their functions, and the services they provide. It is hoped that the report will contribute to raising awareness of the importance of soil biodiversity as a critical component of the natural system. 


Celebrating the diversity of soils across the world. Photos: Richard Bardgett.

Belowground (soil) ecology and its importance for plant population and community dynamics, and ecosystem functioning, is now a major theme in the Journal of Ecology. To celebrate the launch of the “State of Knowledge on Soil Biodiversity” report and World Soil Day 2020, we have put together a selection of papers published in the Journal of Ecology over the last year that have such a focus on belowground ecology.

The papers cover a wide range of topics and collectively contribute to our growing understanding of the functional importance of belowground ecology, including root-associated and decomposer organisms, for plant community dynamics and the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. In the spirit of World Soil Day, and the “State of Knowledge on Soil Biodiversity” report, these papers also contribute to raising awareness of the importance of living soils as a critical component of terrestrial ecosystems.

We hope that you enjoy these papers and, as ever, welcome submissions of your best papers with a focus on plant-soil interactions to Journal of Ecology.

Plant communities on nitrogen‐rich soil are less sensitive to soil moisture than plant communities on nitrogen‐poor soil

The impact of elevated temperature and drought on the ecology and evolution of plant–soil microbe interactions

Mycorrhizal network assembly in a community context: The presence of neighbours matters

Positive plant–soil feedback trigger tannin evolution by niche construction: A spatial stoichiometric model

Rhizosphere and litter feedbacks to range‐expanding plant species and related natives

Temporal dynamics of mycorrhizal fungal communities and co‐associations with grassland plant communities following experimental manipulation of rainfall

Plant economic strategies of grassland species control soil carbon dynamics through rhizodeposition

Past spatial structure of plant communities determines arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal community assembly

Impact of plant functional group and species removals on soil and plant nitrogen and phosphorus across a retrogressive chronosequence

Spatial transitions in tree cover are associated with soil hydrology, but not with grass biomass, fire frequency, or herbivore biomass in Serengeti savannahs

Shrub encroachment decreases soil inorganic carbon stocks in Mongolian grasslands

Using proxies of microbial community‐weighted means traits to explain the cascading effect of management intensity, soil and plant traits on ecosystem resilience in mountain grasslands

Below‐ground responses to insect herbivory in ecosystems with woody plant canopies: A meta‐analysis

Soil abiotic and biotic properties constrain the establishment of a dominant temperate tree into boreal forests

Frequent burning causes large losses of carbon from deep soil layers in a temperate savanna

Do soil‐borne fungal pathogens mediate plant diversity–productivity relationships? Evidence and future opportunities

Substrate quality drives fungal necromass decay and decomposer community structure under contrasting vegetation types

Community‐level interactions between plants and soil biota during range expansion

Below‐ground‐mediated and phase‐dependent processes drive nitrogen‐evoked community changes in grasslands

Above‐ and below‐ground biodiversity jointly regulate temperate forest multifunctionality along a local‐scale environmental gradient

Local soil legacy effects in a multispecies grassland community are underlain by root foraging and soil nutrient availability

The expanding role of deep roots during long‐term terrestrial ecosystem development

Shifts in ectomycorrhizal exploration types parallel leaf and fine root area with forest age

Decomposition of leaf litter mixtures across biomes: The role of litter identity, diversity and soil fauna

Root‐niche separation between savanna trees and grasses is greater on sandier soils

Differential impacts of nitrogen addition on rhizosphere and bulk‐soil carbon sequestration in an alpine shrubland

Initial richness, consumer pressure and soil resources jointly affect plant diversity and resource strategies during a successional field experiment

Climate and soil nutrients differentially drive multidimensional fine root traits in ectomycorrhizal‐dominated alpine coniferous forests

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