Tree invasions and biosecurity: eco-evolutionary dynamics of hitchhiking fungi.
When non-native plants reach novel environments, they typically arrive with hidden microbiomes. In general, most of these hitchhikers remain on their co-evolved hosts, some contribute to the invasiveness of their hosts, and a small number can undergo host shifts and move onto native hosts. Invasion success can vary depending upon the different categories of fungal associates. When an invader tree relies on a fungal mutualism to survive in the new environment, there is a fundamentally lower likelihood of either the tree, or the fungus, establishing novel associations. In contrast, parasitic hitchhikers could merely use their host plants to move through the landscape and to become established on new hosts (host shifts). Evidence suggests the frequency of these host shifts is low and depends upon the fungal functional group. However, epidemics caused by invasive pathogens in native ecosystems have occurred globally. Thus, elucidating the potential for hidden non-native fungi to form novel host associations in a new environment is important for biodiversity conservation.