Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis can counterbalance the negative influence of the exotic tree species Eucalyptus camaldulensis on the structure and functioning of soil microbial communities in a sahelian soil.
The hypothesis of the present study was that bacterial communities would differentiate under Eucalyptus camaldulensis and that an enhancement of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) density would minimize this exotic plant species effect. Treatments consisted of control plants, preplanting fertilizer application and AM inoculation. After 4 months of culture in autoclaved soil, E. camaldulensis seedlings were either harvested for growth measurement or transferred into containers filled with the same soil but not sterilized. Other containers were kept without E. camaldulensis seedlings. After 12 months, effects of fertilizer amendment and AM inoculation were measured on the growth of Eucalyptus seedlings and on soil microbial communities. The results clearly show that this plant species significantly modified the soil bacterial community. Both community structure (assessed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiles) and function (assessed by substrate-induced respiration responses including soil catabolic evenness) were significantly affected. Such changes in the bacterial structure and function were accompanied by disturbances in the composition of the herbaceous plant species layer. These results highlight the role of AM symbiosis in the processes involved in soil bio-functioning and plant coexistence and in afforestation programmes with exotic tree species that target preservation of native plant diversity.