Exotic plant species alter the microbial community structure and function in the soil

Peter S. Kourtev, Joan G. Ehrenfeld, Max Haggblom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

569 Scopus citations


Exotic plant species are increasingly becoming the focus of research and have been identified as a component of human-induced global change. Successful invaders may alter soil conditions, but the effect of exotic species on soil microbial communities has not been studied. We studied two exotic understory plant species (Japanese barberry [Berberis thunbergii] and Japanese stilt grass [Microstegium vimineum]) in hardwood forests in northern New Jersey, USA. We sampled bulk and rhizosphere soils under the two exotic species, as well as under a co-occurring native species (blueberry [Vaccinium spp.]). We indexed the structure (by measuring phospholipid fatty acid [PLFA] profiles) and function (by measuring enzyme activities and substrate-induced respiration [SIR] profiles) of microbial communities in the sampled soils. Soils under the three species differed in microbial community structure and function. These differences were observed in both the rhizosphere and bulk soil samples. Differences in the structural variables were correlated to differences in the functional variables as demonstrated by canonical correlation analysis. These results indicate that successful exotic invasive species can have profound effects on the microbial community of the soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3152-3166
Number of pages15
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Berberis thunbergii
  • Enzymes
  • Exotic plant species
  • Hardwood forests
  • Microstegium vimineum
  • Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA)
  • Soil microbial communities
  • Substrate-induced respiration (SIR)


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