Blood is thicker than water for the common reed—At least that's what the soil tells us | 9/5/2017 | Staff
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In a paper published in Nature Communications, Northeastern University Professor Jennifer Bowen and University of Rhode Island Professor Laura Meyerson reveal that a native type of the common reed (Phragmites australis) has more in common with other native populations of the plant growing elsewhere across the country than they have in common with invasive types occupying the same ecosystem. The results from their study will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success.

The common reed, P. australis, stands between five and fourteen feet tall with a purplish or tan tuft at the top. As a native species, the native lineage of P. australis has inhabited North American wetlands for thousands of years but an introduced invasive P. australis lineage from Europe is taking over many North American marshes.

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"I work in salt marshes and I'm interested in bacteria within salt marshes, but I've never thought about these particular plant microbe interactions and how microbes in the soil work to both facilitate plant success and inhibit their growth," said Bowen. "But it turns out that the evolutionary signatures of the different plant lineages are so strong that it results in similar microbial communities in related plants that are found across the country, that's incredible."

In their new paper, Bowen and Meyerson examined microbial communities in the native, invasive, and Gulf lineages of P. australis to understand the lineage-specific controls on the bacterial communities in the sediments of these plants. Research was conducted using both field surveys and controlled common garden experiments and results from both concurred. Both studies found that the bacterial communities in the soil, which are influenced by the plant's root secretions, are primarily structured by plant lineage rather than by environmental factors as was previously thought.

Part - Experiment - Place

The first part of the experiment took place in...
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