The North American Tallgrass Prairie once spanned across the midwestern United States and was characterized by meadows of diverse flora and fauna with rich soil. Most of this ecosystem has been converted to agriculture and severely fragmented overtime. Though these prairies appear modest, they are teeming with soil microbial fungi working to structure plant communities from below the soil’s surface. These fungi can be beneficial or detrimental to plant species but are not yet well described. Our work explores the relationship between the prairie plant species, Lobelia spicata, and its soil microbial community in Illinois and Kansas prairies. Differences in precipitation throughout the Midwest influences the soil’s microbial diversity and subsequently local adaptation in vulnerable plant populations. Our research to better understand how plants respond to abiotic and biotic soil conditions has the potential to inform conservation and restoration efforts and to help maintain this captivating ecosystem.
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