Interactions between exotic invasive plants and soil microbes in the rhizosphere suggest that 'everything is not everywhere'.

Marnie E. Rout, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The study of soil biota in the context of exotic plant invasions has led to an explosion in our understanding of the ecological roles of many different groups of microbes that function in roots or at the root-soil interface. Part of this progress has been the emergence of two biogeographic patterns involving invasive plants and soil microbes. First, in their non-native ranges invasive plants commonly interact differently with the same soil microbes than native plants. Second, in their native ranges, plants that are invasive elsewhere commonly interact functionally with soil microbes differently in their home ranges than they do in their non-native ranges. These studies pose a challenge to a long-held paradigm about microbial biogeography - the idea that microbes are not limited by dispersal and are thus free from the basic taxonomic, biogeographical and evolutionary framework that characterizes all other life on Earth. As an analogy, the global distribution of animals that function as carnivores does not negate the fascinating evolutionary biogeographic patterns of carnivores. Other challenges to this notion come from new measurements of genetic differences among microbes across geographic boundaries, which also suggest that meaningful biogeographic patterns exist for microorganisms. SCOPE AND CONCLUSIONS: We expand this discussion of whether or not 'everything is everywhere' by using the inherently biogeographic context of plant invasions by reviewing the literature on interactions among invasive plants and the microorganisms in the rhizosphere. We find that these interactions can be delineated at multiple scales: from individual plants to continents. Thus the microbes that regulate major aspects of plant biology do not appear to be exempt from the fundamental evolutionary processes of geographical isolation and natural selection. At the important scales of taxonomy, ecotype and ecosystem functions, the fundamental ecology of invaders and soil microbes indicates that everything might not be everywhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2012


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