Shared mycorrhizae but distinct communities of other root-associated microbes on co-occurring native and invasive maples.
Background: Biological invasions are major drivers of environmental change that can significantly alter ecosystem function and diversity. In plants, soil microbes play an important role in plant establishment and growth; however, relatively little is known about the role they might play in biological invasions. A first step to assess whether root microbes may be playing a role in the invasion process is to find out if invasive plants host different microbes than neighbouring native plant species. Methods: In this study we investigated differences in root associated microbes of native sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and exotic Norway maple (A. platanoides L.) collected from a forested reserve in eastern Canada. We used microscopy to examine root fungi and high-throughput sequencing to characterize the bacterial, fungal and arbuscular mycorrhizal communities of both maple species over one growing season. Results: We found differences in root associated bacterial and fungal communities between host species. Norway maple had a higher bacterial and fungal OTU (operational taxonomic units) richness compared to sugar maple, and the indicator species analysis revealed that nine fungal OTUs and three bacterial OTUs had a significant preference for sugar maple. The dominant bacterial phyla found on the roots of both maple species were Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. The most common fungal orders associated with the Norway maple roots (in descending order) were Helotiales, Agaricales, Pleosporales, Hypocreales, Trechisporales while the Agaricales, Pleosporales, Helotiales, Capnodiales and Hypocreales were the dominant orders present in the sugar maple roots. Dark septate fungi colonization levels were higher in the sugar maple, but no differences in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities and colonization rates were detected between maple species. Discussion: Our findings show that two congeneric plant species grown in close proximity can harbor distinct root microbial communities. These findings provide further support for the importance of plant species in structuring root associated microbe communities. The high colonization levels observed in Norway maple demonstrates its compatibility with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in the introduced range. Plant-associated microbial communities can affect host fitness and function in many ways; therefore, the observed differences suggest a possibility that biotic interactions can influence the dynamics between native and invasive species.