Plant and Soil

, Volume 281, Issue 1, pp 369-380

First online:

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Assemblages in Native Plant Roots Change in the Presence of Invasive Exotic Grasses

  • Christine V. HawkesAffiliated withSection of Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin Email author 
  • , Jayne BelnapAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, Canyonlands National Park
  • , Carla D’AntonioAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, EEMB, University of California
  • , Mary K. FirestoneAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Studies, Policy, & Management, University of California

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Plant invasions have the potential to significantly alter soil microbial communities, given their often considerable aboveground effects. We examined how plant invasions altered the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi of native plant roots in a grassland site in California and one in Utah. In the California site, we used experimentally created plant communities composed of exotic (Avena barbata, Bromus hordeaceus) and native (Nassella pulchra, Lupinus bicolor) monocultures and mixtures. In the Utah semi-arid grassland, we took advantage of invasion by Bromus tectorum into long-term plots dominated by either of two native grasses, Hilaria jamesii or Stipa hymenoides. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonizing roots were characterized with PCR amplification of the ITS region, cloning, and sequencing. We saw a significant effect of the presence of exotic grasses on the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi colonizing native plant roots. In the three native grasses, richness of mycorrhizal fungi decreased; in the native forb at the California site, the number of fungal RFLP patterns increased in the presence of exotics. The exotic grasses also caused the composition of the mycorrhizal community in native roots to shift dramatically both in California, with turnover of Glomus spp., and Utah, with replacement of Glomus spp. by apparently non-mycorrhizal fungi. Invading plants may be able to influence the network of mycorrhizal fungi in soil that is available to natives through either earlier root activity or differential carbon provision compared to natives. Alteration of the soil microbial community by plant invasion can provide a mechanism for both successful invasion and the resulting effects of invaders on the ecosystem.


arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi exotic annual grasses grasslands native perennial grasses plant invasion