Short-term parasite-infection alters already the biomass, activity and functional diversity of soil microbial communities.
Native parasitic plants may be used to infect and control invasive plants. We established microcosms with invasive Mikania micrantha and native Coix lacryma-jobi growing in mixture on native soils, with M. micrantha being infected by parasitic Cuscuta campestris at four intensity levels for seven weeks to estimate the top-down effects of plant parasitism on the biomass and functional diversity of soil microbial communities. Parasitism significantly decreased root biomass and altered soil microbial communities. Soil microbial biomass decreased, but soil respiration increased at the two higher infection levels, indicating a strong stimulation of soil microbial metabolic activity (+180%). Moreover, a Biolog assay showed that the infection resulted in a significant change in the functional diversity indices of soil microbial communities. Pearson correlation analysis indicated that microbial biomass declined significantly with decreasing root biomass, particularly of the invasive M. micrantha. Also, the functional diversity indices of soil microbial communities were positively correlated with soil microbial biomass. Therefore, the negative effects on the biomass, activity and functional diversity of soil microbial community by the seven week long plant parasitism was very likely caused by decreased root biomass and root exudation of the invasive M. micrantha.