Root endophytes and invasiveness: no difference between native and non-native Phragmites in the Great Lakes Region.
Microbial interactions could play an important role in plant invasions. If invasive plants associate with relatively more mutualists or fewer pathogens than their native counterparts, then microbial communities could foster plant invasiveness. Studies examining the effects of microbes on invasive plants commonly focus on a single microbial group (e.g., bacteria) or measure only plant response to microbes, not documenting the specific taxa associating with invaders. We surveyed root microbial communities associated with co-occurring native and non-native lineages of Phragmites australis, across Michigan, USA. Our aim was to determine whether (1) plant lineage was a stronger predictor of root microbial community composition than environmental variables and (2) the non-native lineage associated with more mutualistic and/or fewer pathogenic microbes than the native lineage. We used microscopy and culture-independent molecular methods to examine fungal colonization rate and community composition in three major microbial groups (bacteria, fungi, and oomycetes) within roots. We also used microbial functional databases to assess putative functions of the observed microbial taxa. While fungal colonization of roots was significantly higher in non-native Phragmites than the native lineage, we found no differences in root microbial community composition or potential function between the two Phragmites lineages. Community composition did differ significantly by site, with soil saturation playing a significant role in structuring communities in all three microbial groups. The relative abundance of some specific bacterial taxa did differ between Phragmites lineages at the phylum and genus level (e.g., Proteobacteria, Firmicutes). Purported function of root fungi and respiratory mode of root bacteria also did not differ between native and non-native Phragmites. We found no evidence that native and non-native Phragmites harbored distinct root microbial communities; nor did those communities differ functionally. Therefore, if the trends revealed at our sites are widespread, it is unlikely that total root microbial communities are driving invasion by non-native Phragmites plants.