Do interactions between plant and soil biota change with elevation? A study on Fagus sylvatica

Emmanuel Defossez*, Benoít Courbaud, Benoít Marcais, Wilfried Thuiller, Elena Granda, Georges Kunstler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)


Theoretical models predict weakening of negative biotic interactions and strengthening of positive interactions with increasing abiotic stress. However, most empirical tests have been restricted to plant-plant interactions. No empirical study has examined theoretical predictions of interactions between plants and below-ground micro-organisms, although soil biota strongly regulates plant community composition and dynamics. We examined variability in soil biota effects on tree regeneration across an abiotic gradient. Our candidate tree species was European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), whose regeneration is extremely responsive to soil biota activity. In a greenhouse experiment, we measured tree survival in sterilized and non-sterilized soils collected across an elevation gradient in the French Alps. Negative effects of soil biota on tree survival decreased with elevation, similar to shifts observed in plant-plant interactions. Hence, soil biota effects must be included in theoretical models of plant biotic interactions to accurately represent and predict the effects of abiotic gradient on plant communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-701
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2011


  • Elevation gradient
  • Forest regeneration
  • Stress gradient hypothesis

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