Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The emerging science of linked plant-fungal invasions.

Abstract

Invasions of alien plants are typically studied as invasions of individual species, yet interactions between plants and symbiotic fungi (mutualists and potential pathogens) affect plant survival, physiological traits, and reproduction and hence invasion success. Studies show that plant-fungal associations are frequently key drivers of plant invasion success and impact, but clear conceptual frameworks and integration across studies are needed to move beyond a series of case studies towards a more predictive understanding. Here, we consider linked plant-fungal invasions from the perspective of plant and fungal origin, simplified to the least complex representations or 'motifs'. By characterizing these interaction motifs, parallels in invasion processes between pathogen and mutualist fungi become clear, although the outcomes are often opposite in effect. These interaction motifs provide hypotheses for fungal-driven dynamics behind observed plant invasion trajectories. In some situations, the effects of plant-fungal interactions are inconsistent or negligible. Variability in when and where different interaction motifs matter may be driven by specificity in the plant-fungal interaction, the size of the effect of the symbiosis (negative to positive) on plants and the dependence (obligate to facultative) of the plant-fungal interaction. Linked plant-fungal invasions can transform communities and ecosystem function, with potential for persistent legacies preventing ecosystem restoration.