Negative effects of an allelopathic invader on AM fungal plant species drive community‐level responses

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The mechanisms causing invasive species impact are rarely empirically tested, limiting our ability to understand and predict subsequent changes in invaded plant communities. Invader disruption of native mutualistic interactions is a mechanism expected to have negative effects on native plant species. Specifically, disruption of native plant‐fungal mutualisms may provide non‐mycorrhizal plant invaders an advantage over mycorrhizal native plants. Invasive Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) produces secondary chemicals toxic to soil microorganisms including mycorrhizal fungi, and is known to induce physiological stress and reduce population growth rates of native forest understory plant species. Here, we report on a 11‐yr manipulative field experiment in replicated forest plots testing if the effects of removal of garlic mustard on the plant community support the mutualism disruption hypothesis within the entire understory herbaceous community. We compare community responses for two functional groups: the mycorrhizal vs. the non‐mycorrhizal plant communities. Our results show that garlic mustard weeding alters the community composition, decreases community evenness, and increases the abundance of understory herbs that associate with mycorrhizal fungi. Conversely, garlic mustard has no significant effects on the non‐mycorrhizal plant community. Consistent with the mutualism disruption hypothesis, our results demonstrate that allelochemical producing invaders modify the plant community by disproportionately impacting mycorrhizal plant species. We also demonstrate the importance of incorporating causal mechanisms of biological invasion to elucidate patterns and predict community‐level responses.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Negative effects of an allelopathic invader on AM fungal plant species drive community‐level responses
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1002/ecy.3201
Volume 102
Issue 1
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description e03201, 12 p.
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