, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 469–481 | Cite as

The Impacts of Above- and Belowground Plant Input on Soil Microbiota: Invasive Spartina alterniflora Versus Native Phragmites australis

  • Pei Zhang
  • Deborah A. Neher
  • Bo Li
  • Jihua Wu


Invasive plants affect soil food webs through various resource inputs including shoot litter, root litter and living root input. The net impact of invasive plants on soil biota has been recognized; however, the relative contributions of different resource input pathways have not been quantified. Through a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial field experiment, a pair of invasive and native plant species (Spartina alterniflora vs. Phragmites australis) was compared to determine the relative impacts of their living roots or shoots and root litter on soil microbial and nematode communities. Living root identity affected bacteria-to-fungi PLFA ratios, abundance of total nematodes, plant-feeding nematodes and omnivorous nematodes. Specifically, the plant-feeding nematodes were 627% less abundant when living roots of invasive S. alterniflora were present than those of native P. australis. Likewise, shoot and root biomass (within soil at 0–10 cm depth) of S. alterniflora was, respectively, 300 and 100% greater than those of P. australis. These findings support the enemy release hypothesis of plant invasion. Root litter identity affected other components of soil microbiota (that is, bacterial-feeding nematodes), which were 34% more abundant in the presence of root litter of P. australis than S. alterniflora. Overall, more variation associated with nematode community structure and function was explained by differences in living roots than root or shoot litter for this pair of plant species sharing a common habitat but contrasting invasion degrees. We conclude that belowground resource input is an important mechanism used by invasive plants to affect ecosystem structure and function.


aboveground–belowground interactions exotic plants nematodes microbial PLFAs saltmarsh living root input litter input 



This study was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41371258), National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2013CB430404) and Collaborative Innovation Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in the Three Parallel Rivers Region of China. We are grateful to Zaichao Yang, Jun Yan, Youzheng Zhang and Hequn Liu for their help in field sampling. We also thank Dr. Shuangshuang Liu for her constructive suggestions to our manuscript.


This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41371258), National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2013CB430404) and Collaborative Innovation Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in the Three Parallel Rivers Region of China.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10021_2017_162_MOESM1_ESM.docx (138 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 138 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity ScienceFudan UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil ScienceUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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