Sympatric soil biota mitigate a warmer-drier climate for Bouteloua gracilis

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9 Scopus citations


Climate change is altering temperature and precipitation, resulting in widespread plant mortality and shifts in plant distributions. Plants growing in soil types with low water holding capacity may experience intensified effects of reduced water availability as a result of climate change. Furthermore, complex biotic interactions between plants and soil organisms may mitigate or exacerbate the effects of climate change. This 3-year field experiment observed the performance of Bouteloua gracilis ecotypes that were transplanted across an environmental gradient with either sympatric soil from the seed source location or allopatric soil from the location that plants were transplanted into. We also inoculated plants with either sympatric or allopatric soil biotic communities to test: (1) how changes in climate alone influence plant growth, (2) how soil types interact with climate to influence plant growth, and (3) the role of soil biota in mitigating plant migration to novel environments. As expected, plants moved to cooler-wetter sites exhibited enhanced growth; however, plants moved to warmer-drier sites responded variably depending on the provenance of their soil and inoculum. Soil and inoculum provenance had little influence on the performance of plants moved to cooler-wetter sites, but at warmer-drier sites they were important predictors of plant biomass, seed set, and specific leaf area. Specifically, transplants inoculated with their sympatric soil biota and grown in their sympatric soil were as large as or larger than reference plants grown at the seed source locations; however, individuals inoculated with allopatric soil biota were smaller than reference site individuals at warmer, drier sites. These findings demonstrate complicated plant responses to various aspects of environmental novelty where communities of soil organisms may help ameliorate stress. The belowground microbiome of plants should be considered to predict the responses of vegetation more accurately to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6280-6292
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • adaptation to climate change
  • allopatric
  • microbiome
  • plant migration
  • plant–soil feedback
  • provenance
  • sympatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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