Symbionts as filters of plant colonization of islands: tests of expected patterns and environmental consequences in the Galapagos.
The establishments of new organisms that arrive naturally or with anthropogenic assistance depend primarily on local conditions, including biotic interactions. We hypothesized that plants that rely on fungal symbionts are less likely to successfully colonize remote environments such as oceanic islands, and this can shape subsequent island ecology. We analyzed the mycorrhizal status of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos flora compared with the mainland Ecuador flora of origin. We experimentally determined plant responsiveness and plant-soil feedback of the island flora and assessed mycorrhizal density and soil aggregate stability of island sites. We found that a greater proportion of the native island flora species belongs to families that typically do not associate with mycorrhizal fungi than expected based upon the mainland flora of origin and the naturalized flora of the island. Native plants benefited significantly less from soil fungi and had weaker negative soil feedbacks than introduced species. This is consistent with the observation that field sites dominated by native plant species had lower arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal density and lower soil aggregate stability than invaded field sites at the island. We found support for a mycorrhizal filter to the initial colonization of the Galapagos.