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ISME J. 2013 Jul;7(7):1424-33. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.41. Epub 2013 Mar 14.

Severe plant invasions can increase mycorrhizal fungal abundance and diversity.

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MPG Ranch, Missoula, MT 59801, USA.


Invasions by non-native plants can alter ecosystem functions and reduce native plant diversity, but relatively little is known about their effect on belowground microbial communities. We show that invasions by knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) and leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula, hereafter spurge)--but not cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum)--support a higher abundance and diversity of symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) than multi-species native plant communities. The higher AMF richness associated with knapweed and spurge is unlikely due to a co-invasion by AMF, because a separate sampling showed that individual native forbs hosted a similar AMF abundance and richness as exotic forbs. Native grasses associated with fewer AMF taxa, which could explain the reduced AMF richness in native, grass-dominated communities. The three invasive plant species harbored distinct AMF communities, and analyses of co-occurring native and invasive plants indicate that differences were partly driven by the invasive plants and were not the result of pre-invasion conditions. Our results suggest that invasions by mycotrophic plants that replace poorer hosts can increase AMF abundance and richness. The high AMF richness in monodominant plant invasions also indicates that the proposed positive relationship between above and belowground diversity is not always strong. Finally, the disparate responses among exotic plants and consistent results between grasses and forbs suggest that AMF respond more to plant functional group than plant provenance.

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