Resistance and recovery of soil microbial communities in the face of Alliaria petiolata invasions.
Invaders can gain ecological advantages because of their evolutionary novelty, but little is known about how these novel advantages will change over time as the invader and invaded community evolve in response to each other. Invasive plants often gain such an advantage through alteration of soil microbial communities. In soil communities sampled from sites along a gradient of invasion history with Alliaria petiolata, microbial richness tended to decline, but the community's resistance to A. petiolata's effects generally increased with increasing history of invasion. However, sensitive microbial taxa appeared to recover in the two oldest sites, leading to an increase in richness, but consequent decrease in resistance. This may be because of evolutionary changes in the A. petiolata populations, which tend to reduce their investment to allelopathic compounds over time. These results show that, over time, microbial communities can develop resistance to an invasive plant but at the cost of lower richness. However, over longer time-scales evolution in the invasive species may allow for the recovery of soil microbial communities.