Novel interactions between non-native mammals and fungi facilitate establishment of invasive pines.
The role of novel ecological interactions between mammals, fungi and plants in invaded ecosystems remains unresolved, but may play a key role in the widespread successful invasion of pines and their ectomycorrhizal fungal associates, even where mammal faunas originate from different continents to trees and fungi as in New Zealand. We examine the role of novel mammal associations in dispersal of ectomycorrhizal fungal inoculum of North American pines (Pinus contorta, Pseudotsuga menziesii), and native beech trees (Lophozonia menziesii) using faecal analyses, video monitoring and a bioassay experiment. Both European red deer (Cervus elaphus) and Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) pellets contained spores and DNA from a range of native and non-native ectomycorrhizal fungi. Faecal pellets from both animals resulted in ectomycorrhizal infection of pine seedlings with fungal genera Rhizopogon and Suillus, but not with native fungi or the invasive fungus Amanita muscaria, despite video and DNA evidence of consumption of these fungi. Native L. menziesii seedlings never developed any ectomycorrhizal infection from faecal pellet inoculation. Synthesis. Our results show that introduced mammals from Australia and Europe facilitate the co-invasion of invasive North American trees and Northern Hemisphere fungi in New Zealand, while we find no evidence that introduced mammals benefit native trees or fungi. This novel tripartite 'invasional meltdown', comprising taxa from three kingdoms and three continents, highlights unforeseen consequences of global biotic homogenization.