Plant and Soil

, Volume 436, Issue 1–2, pp 381–396 | Cite as

Cheatgrass-associated AMF community negatively affects sagebrush root production but not C transfer to the soil

  • Janina DierksEmail author
  • Karolien Denef
  • Linda T. A. van Diepen
  • Marie-Anne de Graaff
Regular Article



Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion can alter community structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. The feedbacks and underlying mechanisms of a changed AMF community on sagebrush (Artemisia tridentate ssp. wyomingensis) remain unclear. We assessed how ‘own’ versus ‘foreign’ AMF impact plant biomass, C transfer to AMF, and decomposition rates.


To evaluate the impact of different AMF communities on plant biomass and C transfer, sagebrush and cheatgrass were grown in sterilized soil amended with ‘own’ or ‘foreign’ AMF. Sagebrush plants were labeled with 13C-CO2 to assess changes in allocation of C belowground (13C-PLFA & NLFA) and decomposition (soil respired 13C-CO2). Community structure and alpha-diversity of AMF were examined in native and cheatgrass-invaded communities.


Cheatgrass invasion changed AMF community structure and decreased AMF taxon richness. Sagebrush C transfer and decomposition were not altered, but sagebrush root and cheatgrass shoot production was reduced with ‘foreign’ AMF and no AMF, respectively.


Our results from the greenhouse experiment suggest that sagebrush performance declines with cheatgrass invasion. This may be caused by a disadvantageous AMF community shift, where ‘foreign’ AMF received the same amount of C but provided fewer benefits to sagebrush, as shown by decreased root biomass. These findings provide insight into the feedback mechanism that may contribute to decreasing native plant performance upon invasion.


Carbon transfer Decomposition Invasion Mycorrhizae Plant-soil feedback 



arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi


cheatgrass-associated AMF


sagebrush-associated AMF


distance-based redundancy analysis


fatty acid methyl esters


gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometer


neutral lipid fatty acids


Orchard Training Area


phospholipid fatty acids


amplicon sequence variant


Vienna-Pee Dee Belemnite



We thank Marcelo Serpe and Kevin Feris for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and Ian DuVall, Mary Finnell, Jamie (Hicks) Kezar, Leslie Nichols, Arianne Shannon, Aislinn Johns, Jaron Adkins, and Shay Gillette for assisting with field and laboratory work. Thanks to Colorado State University Ecolab for training and lab space for PLFA samples.


This work was supported by the Idaho National Guard under award number 5484, and by the National Science Foundation Idaho Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF IdahoEPSCoR) Program under award number EPS-0814387. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3917_MOESM1_ESM.docx (149 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 149 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Systems Science, Group of Sustainable Agroecosystems, Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Central Instrument Facility, Department of ChemistryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecosystem Science and ManagementUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA

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