Plant Divers. 2021 Dec 24;44(5):499-504. doi: 10.1016/j.pld.2021.12.004. eCollection 2022 Sep.
Invasive species have profound negative impacts on native ranges. Unraveling the mechanisms employed by invasive plant species is crucial to controlling invasions. One important approach that invasive plants use to outcompete native plants is to disrupt mutualistic interactions between native roots and mycorrhizal fungi. However, it remains unclear how differences in the competitive ability of invasive plants affect native plant associations with mycorrhizae. Here, we examined how a native plant, Xanthium strumarium, responds to invasive plants that differed in competitive abilities (i.e., as represented by aboveground plant biomass) by measuring changes in root nitrogen concentration (root nutrient acquisition) and mycorrhizal colonization rate. We found that both root nitrogen concentration and mycorrhizal colonization rate in the native plant were reduced by invasive plants. The change in mycorrhizal colonization rate of the native plant was negatively correlated with both aboveground plant biomass of the invasive plants and the change in aboveground plant biomass of the native plant in monocultures relative to mixed plantings. In contrast, the change in root nitrogen concentration of the native plant was positively correlated with aboveground plant biomass of the invasive plants and the change in aboveground plant biomass of the native plant. When we compared the changes in mycorrhizal colonization rate and root nitrogen concentration in the native plant grown in monocultures with those of native plants grown with invasive plants, we observed a significant tradeoff. Our study shows that invasive plants can suppress native plants by reducing root nutrient acquisition rather than by disrupting symbiotic mycorrhizal associations, a novel finding likely attributable to a low dependence of the native plant on mycorrhizal fungi.