, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 217-230

Two Invasive Plants Alter Soil Microbial Community Composition in Serpentine Grasslands

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Abstract

Plant invasions pose a serious threat to native ecosystem structure and function. However, little is known about the potential role that rhizosphere soil microbial communities play in facilitating or resisting the spread of invasive species into native plant communities. The objective of this study was to compare the microbial communities of invasive and native plant rhizospheres in serpentine soils. We compared rhizosphere microbial communities, of two invasive species, Centaurea solstitialis (yellow starthistle) and Aegilops triuncialis (barb goatgrass), with those of five native species that may be competitively affected by these invasive species in the field (Lotus wrangelianus, Hemizonia congesta, Holocarpha virgata, Plantago erecta, and Lasthenia californica). Phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) was used to compare the rhizosphere microbial communities of invasive and native plants. Correspondence analyses (CA) of PLFA data indicated that despite yearly variation, both starthistle and goatgrass appear to change microbial communities in areas they invade, and that invaded and native microbial communities significantly differ. Additionally, rhizosphere microbial communities in newly invaded areas are more similar to the original native soil communities than are microbial communities in areas that have been invaded for several years. Compared to native plant rhizospheres, starthistle and goatgrass rhizospheres have higher levels of PLFA biomarkers for sulfate reducing bacteria, and goatgrass rhizospheres have higher fatty acid diversity and higher levels of biomarkers for sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Changes in soil microbial community composition induced by plant invasion may affect native plant fitness and/or ecosystem function.