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Citation. Dickie, I.A.; Montgomery, R.A.; Reich, P.B.; Schnitzer, S.A. 2007. Physiological and phenological responses of oak seedlings to oak forest soil in the absence of trees. TREE PHYSIOLOGY 27:133-140.
Abstract. Established trees influence the growth and physiology of seedlings by altering above- and
belowground conditions; however, tree influences on seedling physiology via
belowground interactions are not well understood. We used soil transfers to an open field
to examine the belowground influences of a Quercus ellipsoidalis E.J.Hill dominated
forest on Q. ellipsoidalis seedling mycorrhizal infection, nutrient uptake, growth and
photosynthesis over three years. After two years, seedlings planted with large quantities
of forest soil (HF treatment) had greater leaf mass and foliar N concentrations than
seedlings receiving smaller quantities of forest soil (LF) and control treatments.
Mycorrhizal infection was greater in the HF treatment after one year compared with the
LF and control treatments, with a positive correlation of foliar N and mycorrhizal
infection in Year 2. There were marked effects of treatments on seedling spring
phenology with HF seedlings breaking bud up to 17 days earlier than seedlings in the
other treatments. The HF seedlings also had more rapid leaf expansion and larger leaves,
and an increase in net photosynthetic rates. These results highlight complex linkages
between above- and belowground physiology: forest soil had substantial effects on
seedling physiology, including traits such as phenology that have previously been
considered to be under aboveground control. Belowground influences of trees on
conspecific seedlings may play a critical role in early seedling establishment.