Effect of plant root symbionts on performance of native woody species in competition with an invasive grass in multispecies microcosms

Article


Birnbaum, Christina, Morald, Tim K., Tibbett, Mark, Bennett, Richard G. and Standish, Rachel J.. 2018. "Effect of plant root symbionts on performance of native woody species in competition with an invasive grass in multispecies microcosms ." Ecology and Evolution. 8 (17), pp. 8652-8664. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4397
Article Title

Effect of plant root symbionts on performance of native woody species in competition with an invasive grass in multispecies microcosms

ERA Journal ID200398
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsBirnbaum, Christina, Morald, Tim K., Tibbett, Mark, Bennett, Richard G. and Standish, Rachel J.
Journal TitleEcology and Evolution
Journal Citation8 (17), pp. 8652-8664
Number of Pages13
YearSep 2018
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN2045-7758
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4397
Web Address (URL)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.4397
Abstract

The majority of terrestrial plants form mutualistic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and rhizobia (i.e., nitrogen-fixing bacteria). Understanding these associations has important implications for ecological theory and for restoration practice. Here, we tested whether the presence of AMF and rhizobia influences the performance of native woody plants invaded by a non-native grass in experimental microcosms. We planted eight plant species (i.e., Acacia acuminata, A. microbotrya, Eucalyptus loxophleba subsp. loxophleba, E. astringens, Calothamnus quadrifidus, Callistemon phoeniceus, Hakea lissocarpha and H. prostrata) in microcosms of field-conditioned soil with and without addition of AMF and rhizobia in a fully factorial experimental design. After seedling establishment, we seeded half the microcosms with an invasive grass Bromus diandrus. We measured shoot and root biomass of native plants and Bromus, and on roots, the percentage colonization by AMF, number of rhizobia-forming nodules and number of proteaceous root clusters. We found no effect of plant root symbionts or Bromus addition on performance of myrtaceous, and as predicted, proteaceous species as they rely little or not at all on AMF and rhizobia. Soil treatments with AMF and rhizobia had a strong positive effect (i.e., larger biomass) on native legumes (A. microbotrya and A. acuminata). However, the beneficial effect of root symbionts on legumes became negative (i.e., lower biomass and less nodules) if Bromus was present, especially for one legume, i.e., A. acuminata, suggesting a disruptive effect of the invader on the mutualism. We also found a stimulating effect of Bromus on root nodule production in A. microbotrya and AMF colonization in A. acuminata which could be indicative of legumes’ increased resource acquisition requirement, i.e., for nitrogen and phosphorus, respectively, in response to the Bromus addition. We have demonstrated the importance of measuring belowground effects because the aboveground effects gave limited indication of the effects occurring belowground.

Keywordsinvasion; legumes; old-field restoration; plant-soil interactions; symbiosis
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020310308. Terrestrial ecology
310703. Microbial ecology
Byline AffiliationsMurdoch University
University of Western Australia
University of Reading, United Kingdom
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