Common Mycelial Networks Impact Competition in an Invasive Grass
American Journal of Botany
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Mycorrhizal hyphal complexes can connect multiple host plants to form common mycelial networks (CMNs) that may affect plant competitive outcomes and community composition through differential resource allocation. The impacts of CMN interactions on invasive plants are not well understood and could be crucial to the understanding of invasive plant establishment and success.
METHODS: We grew the invasive grass Brachypodium sylvaticum in intra- and interspecific pairings with native grass Bromus vulgaris in a greenhouse and controlled for the effects of CMN and root interactions by manipulating the belowground separation between competitors. Comparison of plant growth in pots that allowed CMN interactions and excluded root competition and vice versa, or both, allowed us to delineate the effects of network formation and root competition on invasive plant establishment and performance.
KEY RESULTS: Brachypodium sylvaticum grown in pots allowing for only hyphal interactions, but no root competition, displayed superior growth compared with conspecifics in other treatments. Invasive performance was poorest when pairs were not separated by a barrier. Shoot nitrogen content in B. sylvaticum was higher in mycorrhizal plants only when connections were allowed between competitors.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that the presence of CMN networks can have positive effects on B. sylvaticum establishment and nutrient status, which may affect plant competition and invasion success.
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Workman, R. E., & Cruzan, M. B. (2016). Common mycelial networks impact competition in an invasive grass. American Journal of Botany, 103(6), 1041–1049. http://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.1600142