Quantifying the sharing of foliar fungal pathogens by the invasive plant Ageratina adenophora and its neighbours.
Local pathogens can accumulate as asymptomatic endophytes, making it difficult to detect the impacts of invasive species as propagators of disease in the invaded range. We used the invasive plant Ageratina adenophora to assess such accumulation. We intensively collected foliar fungal endophytes and leaf spot pathogens of A. adenophora and co-occurring neighbours and performed an inoculation experiment to evaluate their pathogenicity and host range. Ageratina adenophora harboured diverse necrotrophic pathogens; its communities of endophytes and leaf spot pathogens were different in composition and shared only a small number of fungal species. In the pathogen communities of local plant hosts, 21% of the operational taxonomic units (OTUs), representing 50% of strains, also occurred as leaf spot pathogens and/or endophytes of A. adenophora. The local pathogen community was more similar to the endophytes than to the pathogens of A. adenophora. The inoculation experiment showed that local pathogens could infect A. adenophora leaves asymptomatically and that local plant hosts were susceptible to both A. adenophora endophytes and pathogens. Ageratina adenophora is a highly competent host for local pathogens, and its asymptomatic latent pathogens are fungi primarily shared with local neighbours. This poses challenges for understanding the long-term ecological consequences of plant invasion.