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Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions

Key Laboratory of Agro-Ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changsha 410125, China
Huanjiang Observation and Research Station for Karst Ecosystem, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Huanjiang 547100, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2023, 14(5), 922;
Received: 17 April 2023 / Accepted: 27 April 2023 / Published: 29 April 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions)
Karst regions have a shallow soil layer, discontinuous soil cover, high rock exposure rate, calcium-rich and alkaline soil, and a fertile but small total soil. Karst plants have a clear adaptability to special and abundant niches, and their configuration patterns in this type of region are very important for revealing the mechanism of community succession and formulating specific ecological management [1]. At present, there are many studies on the water deficit stress of karst plants, ranging from the molecular to the community level. In fact, mineral nutrients are likely to limit the restoration of vegetation in karst regions. However, the current research results on soil nutrients are insufficient, and the nutrients in plants may also be an area of research deserving greater attention [2]. Microorganisms connect soil and plants, participate in karst above-ground nutrient cycles, and promote ecosystem stability and health, and they play an important role in the restoration of karst vegetation. However, less is known about soil microbial community diversity and its assembly mechanism in different vegetation types in karst areas. Moreover, the diversity, functional trait variation, and assembly of vegetation communities are the result of the interaction between karst plants and soil, which illustrates their complex relationship.
To address this urgent topic, we aimed to collect a variety of manuscripts that illustrate “Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions”. A total of 12 high-quality articles were published after rigorous online peer review. The articles present topical examples of world-class research, including soil organic carbon, growth rates of soil water content, soil stoichiometric ratios, fine root turnover traits, functional trait variation, assembly of vegetation and bacterial communities, and soil free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria. We are thus delighted to present this book, which is a compilation of these selected articles.
Here, we outline the key research activities and highlights of the publications included in this book.
First of all, karst soil moisture is an important factor affecting plant growth. Gu et al. selected four plant community structure types as the research objects: arbor + herb (AH), shrub + herb (SH), arbor + shrub + herb (ASH), and herb (H) [3]. A soil moisture sensor was used to monitor the soil moisture content in the 0–70 cm soil layer, to analyze the variation characteristics of soil moisture content and to explore the differences under different plant community structure types. Secondly, eight of the articles addressed the role of soil chemical properties in the karst vegetation. Lan et al. have focused on the effects of different rocky desertification degrees (RDDs) on plant diversity and soil fertility in northern Guangdong over long periods of time [4]. Zou et al. found that 18 years after the Grain for Green program, the soil chemical properties of available nitrogen (AN), total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), and soil organic matter (SOM) of grassland were significantly different from those of farmland [5]. Li et al. compared the contents of soil organic C (SOC) and total N (TN) in karst and non-karst forests [6]. Zhang et al. found that leaf stoichiometry was strongly influenced by species diversity, whereas branch stoichiometry was mainly influenced by leaf and species diversity; the environmental factors influencing the stoichiometric characteristics of leaves and branches were mainly altitude, soil pH, and total soil P [7]. Lu et al. suggest a complex reaction of SOC, soil TN, and soil TP concentrations and stoichiometry to the vegetation restoration mode, particularly in the topsoil [8]. Wang et al. indicated that rock outcrops controlled the SOC contents in the studied regions. The slope position, gradient and aspect influenced the composition and distribution of vegetation, which influenced the evolution of rocky desertification [9]. Pan et al. showed that the variations in these five parameters of fine root turnover were mainly explained by fine root nutrients and the interactive effects between fine root and soil nutrients [10]. Zhang et al. also explored the adaptability of endangered plants in degraded karst habitats through functional trait variation, using three endangered woody plants in karst peak-cluster depression [11]. They found that plant functional traits were influenced by soil and topographic factors, and the relationship between them varied by species. Thirdly, plants associated with symbiotic nitrogen-fixers and soil free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria are good indicators for detecting the source of nitrogen in natural ecosystems. Liang et al. investigated the community composition and diversity of soil free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria and plants, as well as the soil properties in 21 shrub plots (including different topographies and plant types) [12]. Fourthly, karst lithological differences make habitats and soil heterogeneity more complex, and vegetation has developed certain morphological and physiological structural characteristics to adapt to these special environments, which will most likely lead to differentiation in vegetation functional characteristics. Zhou et al. investigated a total of 3170 individuals from 123 species and analyzed the relationship between the species compositions and the functional characteristics of two karst forest areas with different lithology (i.e., limestone and dolomite karst) [13]. Finally, as the spatial scale changes, the ecological processes and mechanisms that determine community patterns change. He et al. established a medium-sized forest plot in an evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest and found that the dispersal-based neutral process is the prominent driver for forest community structure in a typical karst forest environment [14].
In summary, the articles included in this book highlight the interaction between water content, organic carbon, bacterial community in karst soil and fine root turnover traits, functional trait variation, and assembly of vegetation community. The results will be of great scientific value in improving the understanding of adaptive strategies of plants in degraded karst habitats. Our sincere thanks go to the authors of each article for their excellent contributions. We are also grateful to the editors and all the reviewers for their suggestions and assistance with the book’s publication.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, H.Z. and W.Z.; funding acquisition, H.Z.; writing—original draft, H.Z. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870712, 32071846, U20A2011), the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province (2021JJ30764), the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry (SKLEG2021207), and by the Hechi City Program of Distinguished Experts in China.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Du, H.; Liu, L.; Su, L.; Zeng, F.P.; Wang, K.L.; Peng, W.X.; Zhang, H.; Song, T.Q. Seasonal changes and vertical distribution of fine root biomass during vegetation restoration in a karst area, southwest China. Front. Plant Sci. 2019, 9, 2001. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Lu, M.Z.; Zeng, F.P.; Lv, S.V.; Zhang, H.; Zeng, Z.X.; Peng, W.X.; Song, T.Q.; Wang, K.L.; Du, H. Soil C:N:P stoichiometry and its influencing factors in forest ecosystems in southern China. Front. For. Glob. Chang. 2023, 6, 1142933. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  3. Gu, X.; Xiong, K.; Wu, C.; Luo, D. Study on Soil Moisture Characteristics in Southern China Karst Plant Community Structure Types. Forests 2023, 14, 384. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  4. Lan, M.; Xue, C.; Yang, J.; Wang, N.; Sun, C.; Wu, G.; Chen, H.; Su, Z. Changes in Plant Diversity and Soil Factors under Different Rocky Desertification Degrees in Northern Guangdong, China. Forests 2023, 14, 694. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  5. Zou, X.; Yao, K.; Zeng, F.; Zhang, C.; Zeng, Z.; Zhang, H. Diversity and Assembly of Bacteria Community in Lime Soil under Different Karst Land-Use Types. Forests 2023, 14, 672. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  6. Li, Y.; Yang, R.; Hu, P.; Xiao, D.; Wang, Z.; Zhang, W.; Wang, K. Lower Sensitivity of Soil Carbon and Nitrogen to Regional Temperature Change in Karst Forests than in Non-Karst Forests. Forests 2023, 14, 355. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  7. Zhang, C.; Zeng, F.; Zeng, Z.; Du, H.; Su, L.; Zhang, L.; Lu, M.; Zhang, H. Impact of Selected Environmental Factors on Variation in Leaf and Branch Traits on Endangered Karst Woody Plants of Southwest China. Forests 2022, 13, 1080. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Lu, M.; Liu, K.; Zhang, L.; Zeng, F.; Song, T.; Peng, W.; Du, H. Stoichiometric Variation in Soil Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus Following Cropland Conversion to Forest in Southwest China. Forests 2022, 13, 1155. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
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  10. Pan, F.; Qian, Q.; Liang, Y.; Wang, K.; Zhang, W. Spatial Variations in Fine Root Turnover, Biomass, and Necromass of Two Vegetation Types in a Karst Ecosystem, Southwestern China. Forests 2022, 13, 611. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  11. Zhang, C.; Zeng, F.; Zeng, Z.; Du, H.; Zhang, L.; Su, L.; Lu, M.; Zhang, H. Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorus Stoichiometry and Its Influencing Factors in Karst Primary Forest. Forests 2022, 13, 1990. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  12. Liang, Y.; He, X.; Chen, X.; Su, Y.; Pan, F.; Hu, L. Low Frequency of Plants Associated with Symbiotic Nitrogen-Fixers Exhibits High Frequency of Free-Living Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria: A Study in Karst Shrub Ecosystems of Southwest China. Forests 2022, 13, 163. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  13. Zhou, H.; Xu, X.; Jiang, X.; Ding, B.; Wu, P.; Ding, F. Plant Functional Trait Responses to Dolomite and Limestone Karst Forests in Southwest China. Forests 2022, 13, 2187. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  14. He, Y.; Liang, S.; Jiang, Y.; Ning, W. The Relative Importance of Niche and Neutral Processes for the Community Assembly of Subtropical Karst Forest Communities at Different Spatial Scales. Forests 2022, 13, 1930. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
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Zhang, H.; Zhang, W. Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions. Forests 2023, 14, 922.

AMA Style

Zhang H, Zhang W. Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions. Forests. 2023; 14(5):922.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Zhang, Hao, and Wei Zhang. 2023. "Plant–Soil Interactions in Karst Regions" Forests 14, no. 5: 922.

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