Variation in soil fungal composition associated with the invasion of Stellera chamaejasme L. in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau grassland.
Stellera chamaejasme L. is the most problematic weed in China's grasslands. Its root exudates affect co-occurring plants and thus may also affect soil fungi. Soils (0-20 cm depth) on two adjacent sites, one invaded the other uninvaded, were compared for a range of physiochemical parameters and by DNA sequencing of fungal communities. At the invaded site, relationships between S. chamaejasme abundance, soil physiochemical factors, and fungal communities were further investigated to determine whether these relationships corroborated conclusions on the basis of site differences that could be translated into functional variation. Results showed that the invaded soils had lower N, P, organic matter, fungal alpha diversity, and relative abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), but greater abundance of pathogenic fungi. Organic matter and P were the edaphic factors most strongly linked to site differences in total fungal communities. Within the invaded site, organic matter rather than S. chamaejasme cover was closely linked to total fungal composition. However, on this site, a number of fungal species that had various ecological functions and that differentiated the two sites were related to S. chamaejasme cover. This study indicates that lower fertility soils may be more susceptible to invasion by S. chamaejasme. Although the influence of S. chamaejasme on total fungal community composition was limited, there was evidence of effects on particular fungal species. Further research is needed to determine whether these effects influence S. chamaejasme invasiveness.