, Volume 167, Issue 3, pp 733–745

Legacy effects overwhelm the short-term effects of exotic plant invasion and restoration on soil microbial community structure, enzyme activities, and nitrogen cycling

  • Kenneth J. Elgersma
  • Joan G. Ehrenfeld
  • Shen Yu
  • Torsten Vor
Community ecology - Original Paper


Plant invasions can have substantial consequences for the soil ecosystem, altering microbial community structure and nutrient cycling. However, relatively little is known about what drives these changes, making it difficult to predict the effects of future invasions. In addition, because most studies compare soils from uninvaded areas to long-established dense invasions, little is known about the temporal dependence of invasion impacts. We experimentally manipulated forest understory vegetation in replicated sites dominated either by exotic Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), native Viburnums, or native Vacciniums, so that each vegetation type was present in each site-type. We compared the short-term effect of vegetation changes to the lingering legacy effects of the previous vegetation type by measuring soil microbial community structure (phospholipid fatty acids) and function (extracellular enzymes and nitrogen mineralization). We also replaced the aboveground litter in half of each plot with an inert substitute to determine if changes in the soil microbial community were driven by aboveground or belowground plant inputs. We found that after 2 years, the microbial community structure and function was largely determined by the legacy effect of the previous vegetation type, and was not affected by the current vegetation. Aboveground litter removal had only weak effects, suggesting that changes in the soil microbial community and nutrient cycling were driven largely by belowground processes. These results suggest that changes in the soil following either invasion or restoration do not occur quickly, but rather exhibit long-lasting legacy effects from previous belowground plant inputs.


Legacies Plant–soil interactions Phospholipid fatty acids Extracellular enzymes Berberis thunbergii 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 39 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 73 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth J. Elgersma
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Joan G. Ehrenfeld
    • 1
  • Shen Yu
    • 1
    • 4
  • Torsten Vor
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural ResourcesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Ecology and EvolutionRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Urban EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXiamenChina
  5. 5.University of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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