Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 529–544

Local adaptation across a fertility gradient is influenced by soil biota in the invasive grass, Bromus inermis

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10682-011-9518-2

Cite this article as:
Sherrard, M.E. & Maherali, H. Evol Ecol (2012) 26: 529. doi:10.1007/s10682-011-9518-2


Biotic soil factors, such as fungi, bacteria and herbivores affect resource acquisition and fitness in plants, yet little is known of their role as agents of selection. Evolutionary responses to these selective agents could be an important mechanism that explains the success of invasive species. In this study, we tested whether populations of the invasive grass Bromus inermis are adapted to their home soil environment, and whether biotic factors influence the magnitude of this adaptation. We selected three populations growing at sites that differed in soil fertility and grew individuals from each population in each soil. To assess whether biotic factors influence the magnitude of adaptation, we also grew the same populations in sterilized field soil. To further examine the role of one element of the soil biota (fungi) in local adaptation, we measured colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and septate fungi, and tested whether the extent of colonization differed between local and foreign plants. In non-sterilized (living) soil, there was evidence of a home site advantage because local plants produced significantly more biomass than at least one of the two populations of foreign plants in all three soil origins. By contrast, there was no evidence of a home site advantage in sterilized soil because local plants never produced significantly more biomass than either population of foreign plants. Fungal colonization differed between local and foreign plants in the living soil and this variation corresponded with biomass differences. When local plants produced more biomass than foreign plants, they were also less intensively colonized by AM fungi. Colonization by septate fungi did not vary between local and foreign plants. Our results suggest that biotic soil factors are important causes of plant adaptation, and that selection for reduced interactions with mycorrhizae could be one mechanism through which adaptation to a novel environment occurs.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Common garden Invasion Local adaptation Nutrient availability Plant–soil interactions Septate fungi 

Supplementary material

10682_2011_9518_MOESM1_ESM.doc (162 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 162 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Northern IowaCedar FallsUSA

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