King's College London

Research portal

Phylogenetic signals and predictability in plant-soil feedbacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Elizabeth Wandrag, Sarah Bates, Luke Barrett, Jane Catford, Peter Thrall, Wim van der Putten, Richard Duncan

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1440-1449
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jul 2020
Accepted/In press13 Jun 2020
E-pub ahead of print3 Jul 2020
Published1 Nov 2020

King's Authors


There is strong evidence for a phylogenetic signal in the degree to which species share co-evolved biotic partners and in the outcomes of biotic interactions. This implies there should be a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of feedbacks between plants and the soil microbiota they cultivate. However, attempts to identify a phylogenetic signal in plant–soil feedbacks have produced mixed results. Here we clarify how phylogenetic signals could arise in plant–soil feedbacks and use a recent compilation of data from feedback experiments to identify: whether there is a phylogenetic signal in the outcome of plant–soil feedbacks; and whether any signal arises through directional or divergent changes in feedback outcomes with evolutionary time. We find strong evidence for a divergent phylogenetic signal in feedback outcomes. Distantly related plant species show more divergent responses to each other’s soil microbiota compared with closely related plant species. The pattern of divergence implies occasional co-evolutionary shifts in how plants interact with soil microbiota, with strongly contrasting feedback responses among some plant lineages. Our results highlight that it is difficult to predict feedback outcomes from phylogeny alone, other than to say that more closely related species tend to have more similar responses.

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454