An invading annual plant benefits less from soil biota and has reduced competitive power with a resident grass.
Aims: Interactions between plants and their soil biota, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in particular, may play a vital role in the establishment and the range expansion of exotic plants in new environments. However, whether there are post-introduction shifts in dependence on AMF and how dependency interacts with competition remains poorly understood. Methods: We conducted a common garden greenhouse experiment to examine how native (USA) and invasive (China) populations of the plant species Plantago virginica, respond to soil biota, and whether these responses change in the presence of a competitor. Important Findings: We found that while native populations consistently had a higher AMF colonization rate and benefited from AMF in both biomass and seed production, invasive populations received less benefit from AMF, and even showed reduced biomass with AMF in the presence of a competitor. This low mycorrhizal dependency in invasive populations correlated with greater suppression by an indigenous competitor for the invader. The different responses of the invasive and native populations to AMF suggest that alteration of mycorrhizal dependency has occurred during the invasion of P. virginica into China. Our findings suggest that this reduced dependency incurs a cost during interspecific competition.