Soil-microorganism-mediated invasional meltdown in plants
Competition between plants seemingly plays out before our eyes, but when it comes to alien invasive plants, Zhang and colleagues find they may gain a competitive edge through unseen soil interactions. Knowing that plants can change soil microbial communities with effects that last even after the plants are removed, Zhang and colleagues questioned how such conditioned soils might alter competitive outcomes between native and alien plants in that soil. In greenhouses in Germany, the researchers first conditioned soils with native, alien, or no plants, and next planted these species in the soils either by themselves, with other plants of the same species, or with other plants of other species. They found competitive advantages for alien plants; when grown on alien-conditioned soil, alien plants were more competitive than native plants (as measured by aboveground biomass). What’s more, the aliens gain this advantage by being less negatively affected by alien-conditioned soil compared to native plants. Lastly, when they analyzed the soil microbes, they found that when microbial communities were less similar (as they were between alien species), there were fewer negative soil effects. The authors conclude that such interactions can lead to invasional meltdown, a threat to ecosystems.
- Plants can alter soil microbial communities in ways that can later alter plant communities.
- Alien invasive plants are more competitive than native plants when grown in alien-conditioned soils.
- New invasive plants that gain an advantage from alien-conditioned soil may establish more easily, and their negative effects on the ecosystem may be multiplied (invasional meltdown).
- Because soil conditioned by invasive species can have lasting effects on the soil, restoration practitioners may consider bringing in new soil or planting resilient species at sites where invaders were removed.
- Managing a single invasive species early-on may help prevent the synergistic impacts of invasional meltdown.
- Due to the likelihood of reinvasion, it is important to monitor sites where invasive plants have been removed.
Read more of our research summaries:
Functional eradication, a new framework for invasive species control, focuses on suppressing invasive species below levels that have significant negative impacts on conservation targets.
Invasive forest pests can spread when people move firewood from place to place, but this review helps to identify how we can prevent it from spreading further.
Advances in eDNA research show promise for estimating the abundance of invasive fish populations using water samples.
Garlic mustard may occupy forest understories, but mounting evidence shows that with time, populations of this ubiquitous invader are in decline.
Plant competition seemingly plays out before our eyes, but Zhang et al. find that invasive plants may gain a competitive edge through unseen soil interactions.
Buying aquarium organisms from across the world can be as easy as the click of a button, and that's the problem.
If you’re an invasive shrub, you hold on to your leaves– citizen scientists helped to find that extended leaf phenology between native and invasive shrubs gets more similar as you move northward.
How do some aquatic species with low-mobility become widespread? Dispersing locally gives an advantage, and playing stowaway gets them the rest of the way.
Perennial Pepperweed, a widespread invasive in the west and emerging invader in the northeast, can be managed by restoring hydrologic regimes- herbicides can help too.
When managing for forest regeneration, deer may be a more important stressor to address than invasive grasses.
Success: a fungus can help suppress Spotted Lanternfly, invasive insect to the Northeast U.S.
Studying silvicultural techniques to promote the longevity of hemlock trees faced with hemlock woolly adelgid