Reduced mycorrhizal responsiveness leads to increased competitive tolerance in an invasive exotic plant

Lauren P. Waller, Ragan M. Callaway, John N. Klironomos, Yvette K. Ortega, John L. Maron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi can exert a powerful influence on the outcome of plant–plant competition. Since some exotic plants interact differently with soil biota such as AM fungi in their new range, range-based shifts in AM responsiveness could shift competitive interactions between exotic and resident plants, although this remains poorly studied. We explored whether genotypes of the annual exotic Centaurea solstitialis (yellow starthistle), collected from populations across the native and non-native ranges, differed in responsiveness to AM fungi in the introduced range and whether range-based differences in mycorrhizal responsiveness affected how strongly C. solstitialis tolerated competition with the North American native bunchgrass, Stipa pulchra. Grown alone, C. solstitialis from both ranges derived only weak benefits from AM fungi. However, association with AM fungi was costly to plants when grown in competition with S. pulchra. The magnitude of the suppressive effect of AM fungi was greater for genotypes from native versus introduced populations. Synthesis. Many exotic invasive species are known to associate weakly with AM fungi, which may be beneficial in disturbed habitats where competition for resources is low. Our results indicate that reduced mycorrhizal associations may also benefit invaders in a competitive environment. Centaurea solstitialis were more strongly suppressed by established S. pulchra plants in the presence versus absence of AM fungi, but exotic genotypes were less suppressed than native genotypes. This suggests that AM fungi may contribute to invasion resistance in established native communities, but range-based shifts in the way exotic genotypes respond to AM fungal partners may counter such biotic resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1599-1607
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Centaurea solstitialis
  • Stipa pulchra
  • competition
  • invasion
  • mycorrhizal responsiveness


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