Mutualistic fungus promotes plant invasion into diverse communities

Jennifer A RudgersJennifer M Koslow


Reducing the biological diversity of a community may decrease its resistance to invasion by exotic species. Manipulative experiments typically support this hypothesis but have focused mainly on one trophic level (i.e., primary producers). To date, we know little about how positive interactions among species may influence the relationship between diversity and invasibility, which suggests a need for research that addresses the question: under what conditions does diversity affect resistance to invasion? We used experimental manipulations of both plant diversity and the presence of an endophytic fungus to test whether a fungal mutualist of an invasive grass species (Lolium arundinaceum) switches the relationship between plant community diversity and resistance to invasion. Association with the fungal endophyte (Neotyphodium coenophialum) increased the ability of L. arundinaceum to invade communities with greater species diversity. In the absence of the endophyte, the initial diversity of the community significantly reduced the establishment of L. arundinaceum. However, establishment was independent of initial diversity in the presence of the endophyte. Fungal symbionts, like other key species, are often overlooked in studies of p...Continue Reading


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