Plant and Soil

, Volume 294, Issue 1–2, pp 73–85 | Cite as

An invasive aster (Ageratina adenophora) invades and dominates forest understories in China: altered soil microbial communities facilitate the invader and inhibit natives

  • Hong-bang Niu
  • Wan-xue Liu
  • Fang-hao Wan
  • Bo Liu
Regular Article


Exotic plant invasion may alter underground microbial communities, and invasion-induced changes of soil biota may also affect the interaction between invasive plants and resident native species. Increasing evidence suggests that feedback of soil biota to invasive and native plants leads to successful exotic plant invasion. To examine this possible underlying invasion mechanism, soil microbial communities were studied where Ageratina adenophora was invading a native forest community. The plant–soil biota feedback experiments were designed to assess the effect of invasion-induced changes of soil biota on plant growth, and interactions between A. adenophora and three native plant species. Soil analysis showed that nitrate nitrogen (NO 3 -N), ammonium nitrogen (NH 4 + -N), and available P and K content were significantly higher in a heavily invaded site than in a newly invaded site. The structure of the soil microbial community was clearly different in all four sites. Ageratina adenophora invasion strongly increased the abundance of soil VAM (vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) and the fungi/bacteria ratio. A greenhouse experiment indicated that the soil biota in the heavily invaded site had a greater inhibitory effect on native plant species than on A. adenophora and that soil biota in the native plant site inhibited the growth of native plant species, but not of A. adenophora. Soil biota in all four sites increased A. adenophora relative dominance compared with each of the three native plant species and soil biota in the heavily invaded site had greater beneficial effects on A. adenophora relative dominance index (20% higher on average) than soil biota in the non-invaded site. Our results suggest that A. adenophora is more positively affected by the soil community associated with native communities than are resident natives, and once the invader becomes established it further alters the soil community in a way that favors itself and inhibits natives, helping to promote the invasion. Soil biota alteration after A. adenophora establishment may be an important part of its invasion process to facilitate itself and inhibit native plants.


Ageratina adenophora Feedback of soil biota Exotic plant invasion Facilitation Mutualisms Underground invasion mechanism 



We thank Dr Li Yan-shan, Yunnan Agricultural University, for assistance with measurement of soil characteristics and our colleague Jiang Zhi-lin for finding experimental sites and for field work. We also thank Dr Jiang Ling-Huo and Dr Imtiaz Khan, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, for reviewing this manuscript. This study was funded by the National Basic Research and Development Programme, China. (2002CB111400) and International Science and Technology Cooperation Programme (2005DFA31090).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hong-bang Niu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wan-xue Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fang-hao Wan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bo Liu
    • 3
  1. 1.The State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant ProtectionChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingP.R. China
  2. 2.Center for Management of Invasive Alien SpeciesMinistry of AgricultureBeijingP.R. China
  3. 3.Biotechnology Research InstituteFujian Academy of Agricultural SciencesFuzhouP.R. China

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