Mycorrhizae and soil phosphorus affect growth of Celastrus orbiculatus
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Celastrus orbiculatus is an exotic liana that exploits disturbed areas in the eastern United States and once established, can invade into relatively undisturbed forest ecosystems. Mechanisms facilitating its invasion are not fully understood, including whether associations with mycorrhizal fungi are related to its invasion success. We grew C. orbiculatus in a greenhouse and compared growth responses when mycorrhizal fungi or a fungistatic were added to growth media that was either phosphorus-limiting or non-limiting. Results indicated C. orbiculatus forms association with native endomycorrhizal but not with native ectomycorrhizal fungi regardless of phosphorus level. Plants grown with sufficient phosphorus had significantly higher above-ground morphological and physiological traits but significantly lower root biomass compared to plants grown in low phosphorus conditions. Although above-ground traits did not vary significantly between mycorrhizal versus fungistatic added treatments, root biomass was significantly less in plants inoculated with mycorrhizae compared to plants receiving fungistatic. Under low phosphorus conditions, mycorrhizae appeared to be beneficial to the plant although being mycorrhizal did not fully compensate for insufficient phosphorous in the greenhouse situation where pot size limited soil exploration. Our results suggest that in the presence of mycorrhizae or sufficient phosphorus, C. orbiculatus can respond by preferentially allocating energy to above-ground growth, thus supporting its liana growth form onto trees and allowing the exotic to outcompete native species for light resources. If mycorrhizal fungi aid in acquisition of phosphorus, this association could be related to the invasion success of C. orbiculatus.