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SPECIAL FEATURE Underground Processes in Plant Communities1

Summary: 2256
Underground Processes in Plant Communities1
This set of papers represents the second Special Feature this year offering new insights into
interactions in the rhizosphere. From a historical perspective, early ecologists saw the need and
importance of underground research. Nearly 25% of the classic plant ecology textbook by John
Weaver and Frederic Clements (1929. Plant Ecology. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, USA)
was devoted to soil, roots, and their interactions with other organisms. Although most modern
ecologists recognize the important role of underground processes, they find the rhizosphere dif-
ficult to study, with the organisms ranging in size from tiny (microbes) to gigantic (roots).
Unfortunately, out of sight usually means out of mind, and strong programs linking the rhizosphere
to plant community processes are few and far between. The fact that more than half of the plant
biomass in grasslands is underground is not reflected in the types of studies most commonly
conducted. The bulk of this underground biomass is involved in various symbioses, antagonistic
assaults, and mutualisms. For example, fungal root pathogens form some of the largest known
living organisms and are extensively studied by applied and mechanistic biologists but are rather
infrequently the focus of ecological studies. The authors of this Special Feature make strong
arguments for a prominent role of underground dynamics in driving competitive processes between
plants, interactions between plants and animals, and community and ecosystem level processes
such as succession and nutrient cycling. This set of papers represents a fresh combination of


Source: Agrawal, Anurag - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Entomollogy, Cornell University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology