Ectomycorrhizal fungi drive positive phylogenetic plant-soil feedbacks in a regionally dominant tropical plant family
While work in temperate forests suggests that there are consistent differences in plant–soil feedback (PSF) between plants with arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal associations, it is unclear whether these differences exist in tropical rainforests. We tested the effects of mycorrhizal type, phylogenetic relationships to overstory species, and soil fertility on the growth of tree seedlings in a tropical Bornean rainforest with a high diversity of both ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal trees. We found that ectomycorrhizal tree seedlings had higher growth in soils conditioned by close relatives and that this was associated with higher mycorrhizal colonization. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal tree seedlings generally grew more poorly in soils conditioned by close relatives. For ectomycorrhizal species, the phylogenetic trend was insensitive to soil fertility. For arbuscular mycorrhizal seedlings, however, the effect of growing in soils conditioned by close relatives became increasingly negative as soil fertility increased. Our results demonstrate consistent effects of mycorrhizal type on plant–soil feedbacks across forest biomes. The positive effects of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis may help explain biogeographic variation across tropical forests, such as familial dominance of the Dipterocarpaceae in southeast Asia. However, positive feedbacks also raise questions about the role of PSFs in maintaining tropical diversity.