AM fungi facilitate the competitive growth of two invasive plant species, Ambrosia artemisiifolia and Bidens pilosa.
Invasive species often cause enormous economic and ecological damage, and this is especially true for invasive plants in the Asteraceae family. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play an important role in the successful invasion by exotic plant species because of their ability to promote growth and influence interspecific competition. However, few studies have evaluated the effects of invasive Asteraceae species on AMF diversity and how feedback mechanisms during competition with native species subsequently affect the accumulation of nutrient resources. Two exotic Asteraceae, Ambrosia artemisiifolia and Bidens pilosa, were monitored during competition with a native grass species, Setaria viridis, which is being replaced by these exotic species in natural areas around the study site. From these species continuously maintained in a field plot for 5 years, we collected the rhizosphere soil and cloned and identified soil AMF. Furthermore, AM fungal spores were isolated from rhizosphere soil of the two invasive species and used as inoculum in greenhouse experiments, to compare growth and nutrient accumulation during competition. The results indicate that although the AMF diversity in the rhizosphere soil of A. artemisiifolia and B. pilosa differed, the three most abundant species (Septoglomus viscosum, Septoglomus constrictum, Glomus perpusillum) were identical. The addition of AMF inoculum changed the competition between the plants, increasing the competitive ability of the invasives and decreasing that of the native. The results show a similar AMF community composition between A. artemisiifolia and B. pilosa, increased AMF root colonization of the invasive species during competition, AMF-enhanced N accumulation, and AMF-facilitated competitive growth of the invasive species.