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AM Fungi Could Give Native Plants a Competitive Edge Against Invasive Species
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AM Fungi Could Give Native Plants a Competitive Edge Against Invasive Species

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 07, 2024
2 min

Invasive plant species are a major ecological concern as they reduce biodiversity and ecosystem stability. These species often outcompete native species, taking their resources and dominating the landscape. However, according to findings from a recent study, Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi could help alter the competitive dynamics between native and invasive species, offering a new way to manage invasive species while supporting native plant resilience.

The role of AM fungi in plant health

AM fungi form mutualistic relationships with the roots of plants, assisting in nutrient and water uptake in exchange for carbohydrates. This centuries-old partnership has allowed plants and fungi to grow side by side, mutually benefiting both parties for their overall health. Previous research has shown that introducing AM fungi can support plant health, making them more resistant to environmental stressors like drought and disease. Nevertheless, while AM fungi tend to form exclusive relationships with native plants, they have also been found to associate with invasive ones and benefit them as well.

The influence of AM fungi on native and invasive plants

Invasive plants are typically more competitive than native ones since they are highly adaptable to varying environmental conditions, allowing them to grow faster and reproduce more prolifically. Yet despite these advantages, researchers aimed to explore whether AM fungi could shift the balance in favor of native plants.

Using the invasive Eupatorium adenophorum and the native Eupatorium lindleyanum, the researchers set up a controlled experiment to examine how these plants competed under different conditions of AM fungi inoculation. Although the presence of AM fungi significantly improved the growth and nutrient acquisition of both plant species, the native E. Lindleyanum benefitted more, which helped it outcompete its invasive rival. These insights indicate that while invasive plants are generally competitive, native plants can leverage the mutualistic relationship between fungi to counteract this advantage when conditions are favorable (1).

Invasive species management

The results of this study challenge the conventional belief that invasive plants always dominate over native species. AM fungal relationships appear to help native plants have a competitive advantage and resist invasion. 

Further research will be needed to fully understand these relationships and how to include them in adaptive management practices. Still, these promising findings suggest that AM fungi could be an effective strategy for managing invasive plant species and supporting native ones.

References

  1. Shen, Kaiping, Yuejun He, Tingting Xia, Yun Guo, Bangli Wu, Xu Han, Hongchun Chen, Yan Zhao, Pan Wu, and Yuan Liu. 2024. “Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Improve the Competitive Advantage of a Native Plant Relative to a Congeneric Invasive Plant in Growth and Nutrition.” Ecology and Evolution 14 (5): e11459. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11459.

Tags

science
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
The role of AM fungi in plant health
2
The influence of AM fungi on native and invasive plants
3
Invasive species management
4
References

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