Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

How ecosystems change following invasion by Robinia pseudoacacia: insights from soil chemical properties and soil microbial, nematode, microarthropod and plant communities.

Abstract

Biological invasions are a global threat to biodiversity. Since the spread of invasive alien plants may have many impacts, an integrated approach, assessing effects across various ecosystem components, is needed for a correct understanding of the invasion process and its consequences. The nitrogen-fixing tree Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) is a major invasive species worldwide and is used in forestry production. While its effects on plant communities and soils are well known, there have been few studies on soil fauna and microbes. We investigated the impacts of the tree on several ecosystem components, using a multi-trophic approach to combine evidence of soil chemical properties and soil microbial, nematode, microarthropod and plant communities. We sampled soil and vegetation in managed forests, comparing those dominated by black locust with native deciduous oak stands. We found qualitative and quantitative changes in all components analysed, such as the well-known soil nitrification and acidification in stands invaded by black locust. Bacterial richness was the only component favoured by the invasion. On the contrary, abundance and richness of microarthropods, richness of nematodes, and richness and diversity of plant communities decreased significantly in invaded stands. The invasion process caused a compositional shift in all studied biotic communities and in relationships between the different ecosystem components. We obtained clear insights into the effects of invasion of managed native forests by black locust. Our data confirms that the alien species transforms several ecosystem components, modifying the plant-soil community and affecting biodiversity at different levels. Correct management of this aggressive invader in temperate forests is urgently required.