Experimental analysis of the effect of exotic and native plant species on the structure and function of soil microbial communities

P. S. Kourtev, J. G. Ehrenfeld, M. Häggblom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

382 Scopus citations


Invasions of exotic plant species are among the most pervasive and important threats to natural ecosystems, however, the effects of plant invasions on soil processes and the soil biota have rarely been investigated. We grew two exotic and a native under-story plant species in the same mineral soil from a non-invaded forest stand in order to test whether observed differences in the field could be experimentally produced in the greenhouse. We characterized changes in the soil microbial community structure (as indexed by PLFAs) and function (as indexed by enzyme activities and SIR), as well as changes in potential nitrogen mineralization rates. We found that the invasion of two very dissimilar exotic species into the under-story of deciduous forests in eastern North America can rapidly cause changes in most of the studied soil properties. At the end of the three-month incubation, soils under the exotic species had significantly different PLFA, enzyme and SIR profiles than both initial soils and soils where native shrubs had been grown. We also observed a significant increase in pH and nitrification rates under one of the exotic plants. Such changes in the soil are potentially long-term (e.g. changes in soil pH) and are therefore likely to promote the re-invasion of these and other exotics. Both management of exotic plant invasions and the restoration of native communities must take into account exotic species effects on the soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-905
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


  • Enzymes
  • Exotic plant species
  • Hardwood forests
  • Japanese barberry
  • Japanese stilt grass
  • Phospholipid fatty acids
  • SIR
  • Soil microbial community


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental analysis of the effect of exotic and native plant species on the structure and function of soil microbial communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this