Exotic species alter microbial community structure and function in the soil

J. G. Ehrenfeld, Peter Stefanov Kourtev

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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
Issue number83
StatePublished - 2002


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