The native distribution of a common legume shrub is limited by the range of its nitrogen-fixing mutualist

Moshe Alon*, Yoni Waitz, Omri M. Finkel*, Efrat Sheffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Plant–microbe mutualisms, such as the legume-rhizobium symbiosis, are influenced by the geographical distributions of both partners. However, limitations on the native range of legumes, resulting from the absence of a compatible mutualist, have rarely been explored. We used a combination of a large-scale field survey and controlled experiments to determine the realized niche of Calicotome villosa, an abundant and widespread legume shrub. Soil type was a major factor affecting the distribution and abundance of C. villosa. In addition, we found a large region within its range in which neither C. villosa nor Bradyrhizobium, the bacterial genus that associates with it, were present. Seedlings grown in soil from this region failed to nodulate and were deficient in nitrogen. Inoculation of this soil with Bradyrhizobium isolated from root nodules of C. villosa resulted in the formation of nodules and higher growth rate, leaf N and shoot biomass compared with un-inoculated plants. We present evidence for the exclusion of a legume from parts of its native range by the absence of a compatible mutualist. This result highlights the importance of the co-distribution of both the host plant and its mutualist when attempting to understand present and future geographical distributions of legumes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume242
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors New Phytologist © 2024 New Phytologist Foundation.

Keywords

  • Bradyrhizobium
  • Calicotome villosa
  • geographical distribution
  • microbiome
  • nitrogen fixation
  • nodulation
  • realized niche
  • symbiosis

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