Reliable predictions of species response to climate change cannot ignore the crucial role played by biotic interactions in determining plant performance and survival in populations and communities.
By means of reciprocal transplants in the field and greenhouse experiments we aimed at disentangling the role of plant-plant and plant-soil biota interactions in determining plant response to climate change (Tomiolo et al, 2015). Our results showed that biotic interactions have an important role in shaping plant species probability to withstand increasing drought, but concurrently highlighted the role of climate as a filter for the importance of biotic interactions.
In order to investigate whether plant-soil biota interactions will mitigate or exacerbate direct effects of climate change on plant species and whether plant symbiosis with mycorrhizae represent a head start under increasingly stressful conditions, we combined nutrients and water treatments with soil biota manipulations. In a greenhouse experiment carried out by Viktoria Ferenc (master student) we compared the performance of mycorrhizal species against species that do not rely on such symbiosis (Tomiolo et al, under review).