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Xiang Yu Liu

PhD candidate

I am Xiangyu, a PhD student at the Institute of Biology Leiden. Since I enrolled in Lanzhou University as a bachelor student in ecology, I have been working in ecology for ten years. I did my master in East China Normal University and was supervised by Prof. En-Rong Yan. My master thesis was about neighborhood effects of woody plants in evergreen broad-leaved forest in Tiantong, Zhejiang Province, China. I am interested in species interactions and especially for belowground associational effects.

Currently, I am working with Jacobaea vulgaris as a model plant to study belowground associational effects. My research interests also include plant community assembly and plant-herbivore interactions.



Associational effects have been demonstrated as widespread ecological interactions which are defined as reduced or increased consumer effects in a neighbourhood with non-focal neighbours relative to a monoculture of the focal organism. To date, these type of associational effects has been documented in many systems for aboveground plant-herbivore interactions. Herbivory by soil-dwelling organisms can also greatly influence plant performance, but there is a dearth of experimental studies that examine such belowground associational effects and little is known about the ecological importance of these effects. In many plant communities, the degree of herbivory on a focal plant depends on the identity, diversity and traits of the neighbouring plants. Moreover, plant-soil feedbacks, where a plant influences the soil, which subsequently influences a plant that grows later in the soil, can also alter the performance of competing species and feeding performance of herbivores. Therefore, plant-soil feedbacks could also affect belowground associational effects. Furthermore, despite being separated in space, aboveground and belowground organisms influence each other. Hence, belowground AR and AS can influence aboveground AR and AS on the same plant. My research will highlight the ecological importance of belowground AR and AS and shed light on the mechanisms of these widespread interactions.

Brief biography

2020-present: PhD project on Unravelling plant-soil interactions: The ecological importance of belowground associational resistance and susceptibility. Supervisor: Prof.dr. Martijn Bezemer; Co-supervisors: Dr Klaas Vrieling; Dr Suzanne Lommen.

2015-2019: MSc Ecology at East China Normal University

2011-2015: BSc Ecology at Lanzhou University


Liu X, He D, Vrieling K, Lommen STE, Gao C, Bezemer TM. 2024. Distance- and density-dependent recruitment of common ragwort is not driven by plant-soil feedbacks,
Basic and Applied Ecology (in press)

Liu X, Bezemer TM. 2023. Current and legacy effects of neighborhood communities on plant growth and aboveground herbivory. Basic and Applied Ecology, 66: 63-72.

Liu X, Raaijmakers C, Vrieling K, Lommen STE, Bezemer TM. 2022. Associational resistance to nematodes and its effects on interspecific interactions among grassland plants. Plant Soil.

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