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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Soil Microbial Community Effects on Quercus Rubra Seedling Survival at Harvard Forest 2016-2017

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  • Lead: Fiona Jevon
  • Investigators: Jaclyn Matthes
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 2016
  • End date: 2017
  • Status: completed
  • Location: Prospect Hill Tract (Harvard Forest)
  • Latitude: +42.54 degrees
  • Longitude: -72.18 degrees
  • Elevation: 340 to 368 meter
  • Datum: WGS84
  • Taxa: Quercus rubra
  • Release date: 2020
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.333.2
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: short-term measurement
  • Research topic: biodiversity studies; large experiments and permanent plot studies; physiological ecology, population dynamics and species interactions
  • LTER core area: primary production, population studies
  • Keywords: forest dynamics, microbes, oak, seedlings, soil
  • Abstract:

    Feedbacks between plants and their soil microbial communities often drive negative density dependence in tropical forests, but their importance for tree demographics in temperate forests remains unclear. Additionally, the relative contribution of intraspecific seedling competition and soil pathogens to density-dependent patterns has rarely been assessed. We assessed how the soil microbial community influenced Quercus rubra seedling survival by growing seedlings in a greenhouse inoculated with soil collected from beneath conspecific and heterospecific mature trees. We found that seedlings grown with soil from beneath conspecific adults had a higher mortality rate than seedlings grown with soil from beneath heterospecific adults; therefore adult plant-soil feedbacks decrease seedling survival in Q. rubra.

  • Methods:

    We collected more than 500 acorns from the Prospect Hill tract of Harvard Forest in November of 2016. We removed non-viable acorns and incubated the remaining acorns at 4 °C for 4.5 months. We re-tested the acorns for viability and removed the non-viable ones. Acorns were weighed and placed in individual containers with a wet paper towel and placed in a growth chamber (Percival Scientific, Inc. Model I-35VL) at 20 °C using 12hr light/dark cycles to germinate. After 2 weeks, they were surface-sterilized with a 2% bleach solution, rinsed with deionized water, and planted.

    One week prior to planting, we collected fresh soil from the ForestGEO plot beneath one large adult each of Q. rubra, Betula lenta, T. canadensis, Pinus strobus, and Fagus grandifolia. The four heterospecifics were chosen because they are the most common ectomycorrhizal trees that co-occur with Q. rubra in this area. The soil included significant root and rhizosphere matter as it was collected from the top 5 cm of the Oa/A horizon. To ensure that microbial associates from the rhizosphere were included in the treatments, the soil was not sieved but cut into approximately small pieces (~ 2 cm3) that were intermixed and gently homogenized. Half the soil was sterilized by autoclaving (Consolidated Stills and Sterilizers, Model 6030) for 90 minutes on a gravity cycle at 121°C. Successfully germinated acorns were planted either alone or in sets of three in pots with 250 grams of a sterile 2:1 mixture of peat moss and sand, combined with 25 grams of either sterilized or unsterilized soil from beneath one of the five mature tree species. We placed the pots with treatments intermixed on a wide table in the center of a greenhouse and watered them twice weekly. Once a week, we haphazardly rearranged the pots around the bench to minimize possible microclimate effects. After 20 weeks, we scored the seedlings as either alive or dead.

  • Organization: Harvard Forest. 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366, USA. Phone (978) 724-3302. Fax (978) 724-3595.

  • Use: This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation: Jevon F. 2020. Soil Microbial Community Effects on Quercus Rubra Seedling Survival at Harvard Forest 2016-2017. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF333 (v.2). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf333-01: seedling survival

  1. soil: soil type
    • Fresh: fresh
    • Sterilized: sterilized
  2. soil.origin: species of adult tree from which the soil innocula was collected
    • AB: Fagus grandifolia
    • BB: Betula lenta
    • H: Tsuga canadensis
    • RO: Quercus rubra
    • WP: Pinus strobus
  3. acorns.number: number of acorns per pot (1 or 3) (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  4. rep: pot level replicate (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  5. unique identifier for each acorn
  6. survival: survival status after 20 weeks
    • 0: dead
    • 1: alive