Wurst, S. (corresponding author, firstname.lastname@example.org), Gebhardt, K. (Kr.email@example.com), Rillig, M.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org): Freie Universität Berlin, Dahlem Centre of Plant Science (DCPS), Ökologie der Pflanzen, Altensteinstr. 6, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Independent effects of arbuscular mycorrhiza and earthworms on plant diversity and newcomer plant establishment
Article first published online: 18 JUL 2011
© 2011 International Association for Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 22, Issue 6, pages 1021–1030, December 2011
How to Cite
Wurst, S., Gebhardt, K. and Rillig, M. C. (2011), Independent effects of arbuscular mycorrhiza and earthworms on plant diversity and newcomer plant establishment. Journal of Vegetation Science, 22: 1021–1030. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2011.01321.x
Co-ordinating Editor: Francesco de Bello
- Issue published online: 5 OCT 2011
- Article first published online: 18 JUL 2011
- Received 1 March 2011, Accepted 7 June 2011
- Invasive species;
- Plant traits;
- Ruderal plant community;
- Seedling establishment;
- Soil organisms
Questions: How do arbuscular mycorrhiza and earthworms affect the structure and diversity of a ruderal plant community? Is the establishment success of newcomer plants enhanced by these soil organisms and their interactions?
Methods: We grew a native ruderal plant community composed of different functional groups (grasses, legumes and forbs) in the presence and absence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and endogeic earthworms in mesocosms. We introduced seeds of five, mainly exotic, plant species from the same functional groups after a disturbance simulating mowing. The effects of the soil organisms on the native ruderal plant community and seedling establishment of the newcomer plants were assessed.
Results: After disturbance, the total above-ground regrowth of the native plant community was not affected by the soil organisms. However, AMF increased plant diversity and shoot biomass of forbs, but decreased shoot biomass of grasses of the native plant community. Earthworms led to a reduction in total root biomass. Establishment of the introduced newcomer plants increased in the presence of AMF and earthworms. Especially, seedling establishment of the introduced non-native legume Lupinus polyphyllus and the native forb Plantago lanceolata was promoted in the presence of AMF and earthworms, respectively. The endogeic earthworms gained more weight in the presence of AMF and led to increased extraradical AMF hyphal length in soil. However, earthworms did not seem to modify the effect of AMF on the plant community.
Conclusion: The present study shows the importance of mutualistic soil organisms in mediating the establishment success of newcomer plants in a native plant community. Mutualistic soil organisms lead to changes in the structure and diversity of the native plant community and might promote newcomer plants, including exotic species.