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Soil microbes drive phylogenetic diversity-productivity relationships in a subtropical forest.


The relationship between plant diversity and productivity and the mechanisms underpinning that relationship remain poorly resolved in species-rich forests. We combined extensive field observations and experimental manipulations in a subtropical forest to test how species richness (SR) and phylogenetic diversity (PD) interact with putative root-associated pathogens and how these interactions mediate diversity-productivity relationships. We show that (i) both SR and PD were positively correlated with biomass for both adult trees and seedlings across multiple spatial scales, but productivity was best predicted by PD; (ii) significant positive relationships between PD and productivity were observed in nonsterile soil only; and (iii) root fungal diversity was positively correlated with plant PD and SR, while the relative abundance of putative pathogens was negatively related to plant PD. Our findings highlight the key role of soil pathogenic fungi in tree diversity-productivity relationships and suggest that increasing PD may counteract negative effects of plant-soil feedback.

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