Soil microbes are important regulators of plant productivity, especially in nutrient-poor ecosystems where plant symbionts are responsible for the acquisition of limiting nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria are responsible for an average of between 5–20%, and up to 80% of all nitrogen, and up to 75% of phosphorus, that is acquired by plants annually.
Free-living microbes also strongly regulate plant productivity, through the mineralization of, and competition for, nutrients that sustain plant productivity. Soil microbes, including microbial pathogens, are also important regulators of plant community dynamics and plant diversity, determining plant abundance.
Conservative estimates suggest that 20,000 plant species are completely dependent on microbial symbionts for growth and survival. Overall, soil microbes must be considered as important drivers of plant diversity and productivity.
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