What is it about?

Our research article investigates the mystery of how N2-fixing legume trees manage their fast growth and ample recruitment in regrowing tropical forests on nutrient poor soils. Until now, our understanding was that they achieve that through symbiosis with N2-fixing bacteria housed in their roots. However, that did not answer how they succeed in acquiring other inorganic nutrients necessary for growth. Here, we show that N2-fixing trees in secondary forests trigger twofold faster break-down of fresh rock grains in soil compared to non-N2–fixing trees that act to release nutrients. They achieve that by concerted changes in their soil pH, soil carbon to nitrogen ratio and soil microbial communities.

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Why is it important?

• The research shows how N2-fixing legumes can play a key part in the sustainable reforestation of tropical forests, some of the most diverse places on Earth • Reforestation of tropical forests and degraded land is critical to help meet climate change mitigation targets

Perspectives

Legume trees are particularly important in the process of forest recovery because they are able to supply fresh nitrogen into soils, which gets broken down by bacteria and utilised by the legume tree and trees around it. Now, we have expanded this dogma by demonstrating they may also enrich their tree neighbours with rock-derived nutrients different than nitrogen.

Dr Dimitar Z Epihov
University of Sheffield

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Legume–microbiome interactions unlock mineral nutrients in regrowing tropical forests, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2022241118.
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