Plant-mycorrhizal interactions and their role in plant invasions in mountains
Non-native species invasions are one of the most impactful drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem services loss worldwide. One aspect of plant species invasion, which is only recently starting to be recognized as a determinant of invasion success, is the symbiosis between plant and mycorrhizal fungi. Here, I focus on anthropogenic disturbance in mountain ecosystems and its impact on plant communities and mycorrhizal fungi to answer how these communities are impacted by disturbance and whether non-native plants can benefit to establish and spread. To this end I used a combination of different approaches: 1) repeated surveys of plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi along disturbed roadsides in the mountains of Norway, 2) combining a global dataset of native and non-native plants along mountain roads with a database associating plants with their mycorrhizal types, and 3) an in-situ experiment measuring non-native plant success and changes in fungal community following different types of disturbances. Through these methods, I could assess the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on mycorrhizal symbiosis and non-native plant species at multiple scales and resolutions. We found that road disturbance has a globally consistent effect on mycorrhizal types in mountain systems, as plants associated with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi were more abundant following disturbance. Conversely, vegetation associated with either ectomycorrhizal (EcM) or ericoid mycorrhizal (ErM) fungi was less abundant in disturbed sites. In the regional study, AM fungi were most abundant and diverse in the roots of plant communities affected by road disturbance. Non-native plants were also restricted to these disturbed sites. The experimental results showed that physical disturbance and nutrient addition have negative effects on EcM fungi and positive effects on fungal pathogens, and facilitate non-native plant success. Our results show that anthropogenic disturbance does have an effect on mycorrhizal fungi that in turn impacts the distribution of plant species in disturbed mountain systems. The resulting shift in mycorrhizal fungi benefiting AM fungi and AM plant species could have implications for non-native plant invasions. Indeed, we know that non-native plants predominantly form associations with AM fungi. Therefore, anthropogenic disturbance can facilitate non-native plant success through disruption of the native fungal communities, and especially so in high elevation and cold climate regions which are naturally less dominated by AM plants. I believe this highlights the importance of mycorrhizal symbiosis in understanding plant invasions and emphasizes the importance of monitoring sources of anthropogenic disturbance in mountains to prevent future establishment of non-native plants.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology , 2024
182 p.
Supervisor: Lembrechts, Jonas [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Nijs, Ivan [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Verbruggen, Erik [Supervisor]
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Creation 07.03.2024
Last edited 13.03.2024
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