Leaving a Legacy: Plants leave “memories” in the soil that can affect future generations

It’s easy to drive by grasslands, forests, and deserts without thinking too deeply about how and why they have developed to be unique from one another. Still, most of us have an intuition of how community drivers work, such as recognizing that sandy soils and very hot climates encourage the growth of cacti instead of oaks. As an ecologist that has done a lot of work with restoration projects, I am particularly interested in thinking about all of the environmental “ingredients” that go into the recipe for each unique plant community. The day that I found out that plants can leave “memories” in soil which change communities long term, I immediately began thinking about how we could harness this knowledge for good and whether or not humans play a role in the development of these legacies.

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