Arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization rate of an exotic plant, Galinsoga quadriradiata, in mountain ranges changes with altitude.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are suggested to be important for invasions by many exotic plants. However, it is not yet known how associations between AMF and invasive plant populations change in mountains ranges and how changed associations affect further expansion of different populations in new habitats. We conducted a field survey to detect AMF colonization rate of the invasive Galinsoga quadriradiata along an elevational gradient ranging from 223 to 1947 masl in the Qinling and Bashan Mountains, China. Additionally, a greenhouse experiment was conducted to compare plant growth performance among five elevational populations. In the field, total plant mass and seed production, as well as root AMF colonization rate, significantly decreased with elevation. When populations were grown in a novel soil environment in the greenhouse, the high-altitude populations achieved higher seed and total mass at lower AMF colonization rate than the low-altitude populations. Moreover, high AMF association was related to high intraspecific competition within low-altitude populations and limited seed production. Our results revealed that the associations between AMF and G. quadriradiata decrease with altitude in mountain ranges, and this may indicate that differentiation of association between AMF and elevational populations occurs during range expansion of G. quadriradiata. The results of the greenhouse experiment suggest that the high-altitude populations are more aggressive than the low-altitude populations in a non-stressful environment.