Facultative mycorrhizal associations promote plant naturalization worldwide.
Mycorrhizal symbiosis has received relatively little attention as a mechanism explaining plant naturalizations at a global scale. Here, we combined data on vascular plant species occurrences in over 840 mainland and island regions from the Global Naturalized Alien Flora (GloNAF) database with up-to-date databases of mycorrhizal associations. We tested whether the mycorrhizal type (arbuscular, AM; ectomycorrhizal, ECM; and non-mycorrhizal, NM) and status (facultative and obligate) were associated with two measures of naturalization success, (1) naturalization incidence (reflecting the ability to naturalize, and expressed as whether or not a plant species is recorded as naturalized anywhere in the world) and (2) naturalization extent (expressed as the number of GloNAF regions where the species occurs). In total, we found information on mycorrhizal type and status for 3211 naturalized plant species and 4200 non-naturalized plant species. Mycorrhizal plant species, both AM and ECM, were more likely to be naturalized and naturalized to a greater extent than NM plants. The effect of being an AM species was always stronger, with AM species having a greater naturalization extent than ECM species. Being the same mycorrhizal type or status, annual species were generally more likely to be naturalized than perennials. Species with facultative mycorrhizal associations were more successful than those with obligate mycorrhizal associations, but both groups tended to have a greater chance of being naturalized than NM species. These results indicate that being NM is generally less favorable for naturalization. Overall, our results confirm, at the global scale, those of regional studies that facultative association with AM provides plant species with a naturalization advantage. For the first time, we have shown that being mycorrhizal contributes not only to the size of the naturalized range, reflecting the ability to spread, but also to the ability to become naturalized in the first instance.