An invasive plant promotes its arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses and competitiveness through its secondary metabolites: indirect evidence from activated carbon.
Secondary metabolites released by invasive plants can increase their competitive ability by affecting native plants, herbivores, and pathogens at the invaded land. Whether these secondary metabolites affect the invasive plant itself, directly or indirectly through microorganisms, however, has not been well documented. Here we tested whether activated carbon (AC), a well-known absorbent for secondary metabolites, affect arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbioses and competitive ability in an invasive plant. We conducted three experiments (experiments 1-3) with the invasive forb Solidago canadensis and the native Kummerowia striata. Experiment 1 determined whether AC altered soil properties, levels of the main secondary metabolites in the soil, plant growth, and AMF communities associated with S. canadensis and K. striata. Experiment 2 determined whether AC affected colonization of S. canadensis by five AMF, which were added to sterilized soil. Experiment 3 determined the competitive ability of S. canadensis in the presence and absence of AMF and AC. In experiment 1, AC greatly decreased the concentrations of the main secondary metabolites in soil, and the changes in concentrations were closely related with the changes of AMF in S. canadensis roots. In experiment 2, AC inhibited the AMF Glomus versiforme and G. geosporum but promoted G. mosseae and G. diaphanum in the soil and also in S. canadensis roots. In experiment 3, AC reduced S. canadensis competitive ability in the presence but not in the absence of AMF. Our results provided indirect evidence that the secondary metabolites (which can be absorbed by AC) of the invasive plant S. canadensis may promote S. canadensis competitiveness by enhancing its own AMF symbionts.