The ongoing change in climate and human disturbances are an increasing threat to the functioning of ecosystems globally. Ecosystems are increasingly losing their natural stability, resulting in a drastic loss of biodiversity, functioning and the ecosystem services they provide. Interactions between plants and soil microbiota are pivotal in creating stable and diverse plant communities and therefore key interactions to address in our efforts of protecting and restoring natural ecosystems.

In this project, we will develop an integrated framework on the plant-soil-microbiota interactions that underlie stability and diversity in grassland communities. The PhD candidate will work in a team that is testing the main hypothesis that plant community instability results from a loss of negative interactions between plants and soil microbiota. This loss is expected to, in time, result in dominance of plant species and eventually in instability of the plant community as a whole. The PhD candidate will be involved in setting-up, maintaining and sampling of plant species in 13 year old permanent plots at a successional grassland field site (see figure). The PhD candidates’ focus will be on defining plant species trait shifts that associate with a loss of negative interactions between plants and soil microbiota. Plant traits included are plant shoot traits (SLA, LDMC, seed weight and number), plant root traits (root diameter, SRL, phenol content), plant spatial growth (local density) and plant dispersal distance. The PhD will associate shifts in plant traits to long-term plant developmental patterns, microbial rhizosphere communities and rhizosphere biogeochemistry.

Five relevant publications of the research group:

Aldorfová (Florianová), A., Knobová, P., & Münzbergová, Z. (2020). Plant–soil feedback contributes to predicting plant invasiveness of 68 alien plant species differing in invasive status. Oikos, 129(8), 1257–1270.

Florianová, A., & Münzbergová, Z. (2018). Drivers of natural spread of invasive Impatiens parviflora differ between life-cycle stages. Biological Invasions, 20(8), 2121–2140.

in ’t Zandt, D., Herben, T., van den Brink, A., Visser, E. J. W., & de Kroon, H. (2021). Species abundance fluctuations over 31 years are associated with plant–soil feedback in a species‐rich mountain meadow. Journal of Ecology, 109(3), 1511–1523.

in ’t Zandt, D., Kolaříková, Z., Cajthaml, T., & Münzbergová, Z. (2022). Plant community stability is associated with a decoupling of prokaryote and fungal soil networks. BioRxiv.

Kuťáková, E., Mészárošová, L., Baldrian, P., & Münzbergová, Z. (2020). Evaluating the role of biotic and chemical components of plant-soil feedback of primary successional plants. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 56(3), 345–358.

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