The annual invasive plant Impatiens glandulifera reduces hyphal biomass of soil fungi in deciduous forests.
Soil fungi play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning and there is increasing evidence that exotic plants invading forests can affect soil fungal communities. We examined potential effects of the invasive plant Impatiens glandulifera on hyphal biomass of ectomycorrhizal fungi, their genetic diversity and the diversity of other soil fungi in deciduous forests in Switzerland. We compared invaded patches with patches where I. glandulifera had been removed, by establishing pairs of 3-m long transect lines at the edge of seven areas of either type. Along the transects we assessed the length of ectomycorrhizal fungal hyphae using the 'ingrowth mesh bag method', and used terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis to examine fungal genetic diversity. The invasive plant reduced fungal hyphal biomass by 30-80%: the reduction was largest in the centre of the patch. I. glandulifera did not alter fungal richness, but affected the composition of fungal communities. This is probably the result of a decrease of mycorrhizal fungi, coupled with an increase of saprotrophic fungi. Our findings demonstrate the adverse impacts of an annual invasive plant species on both fungal hyphal biomass and the composition of soil fungal communities. This may negatively affect forest nutrient and carbon cycling, soil stability and the functionality of the fungal community, with major consequences for forest ecosystem functioning.