Table_5_Plant Genotype Influences Physicochemical Properties of Substrate as Well as Bacterial and Fungal Assemblages in the Rhizosphere of Balsam Poplar.PDF
Abandoned unrestored mines are an important environmental concern as they typically remain unvegetated for decades, exposing vast amounts of mine waste to erosion. Several factors limit the revegetation of these sites, including extreme abiotic and unfavorable biotic conditions. However, some pioneer tree species having high levels of genetic diversity, such as balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), can naturally colonize these sites and initiate plant succession. This suggests that some tree genotypes are likely more suited for acclimation to the conditions of mine wastes. In this study, we selected two contrasting mine waste storage facilities (waste rock from a gold mine and tailings from a molybdenum mine) from the Abitibi region of Quebec (Canada), on which poplars were found to have grown naturally. First, we assessed in situ the impact of vegetation presence on each mine waste type. The presence of balsam poplars improved soil health locally by modifying the physicochemical properties (e.g., higher nutrient content and pH) of the mine wastes and causing an important shift in their bacterial and fungal community compositions, going from lithotrophic communities that dominate mine waste environments to heterotrophic communities involved in nutrient cycling. Next, in a greenhouse experiment we assessed the impact of plant genotype when grown in these mine wastes. Ten genotypes of P. balsamifera were collected locally, found growing either at the mine sites or in the surrounding natural forest. Tree growth was monitored over two growing seasons, after which the effects of genotype-by-environment interactions were assessed by measuring the physicochemical properties of the substrates and the changes in microbial community assembly. Although substrate type was identified as the main driver of rhizosphere microbiome diversity and community structure, a significant effect due to tree genotype was also detected, particularly for bacterial communities. Plant genotype also influenced aboveground tree growth and the physicochemical properties of the substrates. These results highlight the influence of balsam poplar genotype on the soil environment and the potential importance of tree genotype selection in the context of mine waste revegetation.