Impact of an invasive nitrogen-fixing tree on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and the development of native species.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are obligate soil biotrophs that establish intimate relationships with 80% of terrestrial plant families. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi obtain carbon from host plants and contribute to the acquisition of mineral nutrients, mainly phosphorus. The presence of invasive plants has been identified as a soil disturbance factor, often conditioning the structure and function of soil microorganisms. Despite the investigation of many aspects related to the invasion of Acacia dealbata, the effect produced on the structure of AMF communities has never been assessed. We hypothesize that A. dealbata modifies the structure of AMF community, influencing the establishment and growth of plants that are dependent on these mutualisms. To validate our hypothesis, we carried out denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis and also grew plants of Plantago lanceolata in pots using roots of native shrublands or from A. dealbata, as inoculum of AMF. Cluster analyses from DGGE indicated an alteration in the structure of AMF communities in invaded soils. After 15 weeks, we found that plants grown in pots containing native roots presented higher stem and root growth and also produced higher biomass in comparison with plants grown with A. dealbata inoculum. Furthermore, plants that presented the highest biomass and growth exhibited the maximum mycorrhizal colonization and phosphorus content. Moreover, fluorescence measurements indicated that plants grown with A. dealbata inoculum even presented higher photosynthetic damage. Our results indicate that the presence of the invader A. dealbata modify the composition of the arbuscular fungal community, conditioning the establishment of native plants.