Arbuscular mycorrhizas: drivers or passengers of alien plant invasion.
Observational and manipulative studies have revealed that alien plant invasions are an outcome of interplay between a myriad of biotic and abiotic factors operating at various spatio-temporal stages and scales. Despite the salient role of ubiquitous arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in plant interactions, studies exploring the role of such symbionts in invasiveness of alien species and invasibility of communities are limited, in part because of difficult-culturability of AM fungi on artificial media and apparent complexities in manipulations of AM-plant interactions in field and laboratory experiments. Moreover, analysis of the AM-plant invasion studies conducted so far have yielded contradictory results with some indicating facilitation of invasion by AM fungi and others its inhibition. Other studies have indicated that arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis has no effect on invasiveness of alien plants. While arbuscular mycorrhizas may facilitate invasiveness of some alien plants, such plants may also potentially impact mycorrhizal community structure and functions in the invaded habitats in different ways. The present review addresses these paradoxically conflicting observations in the context of mutualism-commensalism-parasitism gradient that characterizes the relationship between AM fungi and their alien vs. native hosts and also discusses the influence of alien invasive plants on mycorrhizal community structure of invaded ecosystems. Through critical analysis of costs and benefits for invasive plants that associate with AM fungi in their introduced range, invasion-induced shifts in AM mutualism are evaluated in the context of their impact on native biodiversity. Underlining limitations of methodologies and experimental designs usually employed to understand AM-mediated plant invasiveness, we proposes herein some alternative frameworks and experimental approaches to overcome these limitations.