Open Access Senior Honors Thesis
Department or School
Emily Grman, Ph.D.
Kristi Judd, Ph.D.
Natalie Dove, Ph.D.
Restored prairies are attempts at restoring native prairies, most of which have been lost. However, restoration is often challenging because native prairie plants, such as native prairie legumes, often fail to establish in restored prairies. We hypothesized legume’s failure to establish in restored prairies is due to changes in the microbial communities with which legumes have multi-mutualistic relationships: rhizobia and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Additionally, we hypothesized that late successional legumes rely on multi-mutualistic relationships for establishment and growth more than early successional legumes, and would respond synergistically to rhizobia and AMF treatments. To test this, we inoculated eight native perennial legumes of varying life histories with rhizobia and/or AMF and transplanted them into a restored prairie. At the end of the growing season we measured the survival, health, above ground biomass, and height of the surviving legumes. Dual inoculation increased seedling survival, health, above ground biomass, and height compared to uninoculated controls. Averaged across all species, dual inoculation increased seedling height and above ground biomass synergistically (greater than the total effect of the mutualists’ separate independent effects combined). On a species by species basis, mid and late successional species experienced synergistic effects on above ground biomass from dual inoculation while early successional species did not. However, the magnitude of the synergistic response did not increase with plant successional status. Our findings reinforce the importance of multi-mutualistic community interactions within prairie ecosystems for restoration success.
Chumney, Alex, "Microbial communities improve growth of slow-growing, uncommon legumes in a restored prairie" (2023). Senior Honors Theses and Projects. 787.