Plant Ecology

, Volume 219, Issue 5, pp 539–548 | Cite as

Do novel weapons that degrade mycorrhizal mutualisms promote species invasion?

  • Philip Pinzone
  • Daniel Potts
  • Gary Pettibone
  • Robert WarrenII


Non-native plants often dominate novel habitats where they did not co-evolve with the local species. The novel weapons hypothesis suggests that non-native plants bring competitive traits against which native species have not adapted defenses. Novel weapons may directly affect plant competitors by inhibiting germination or growth, or indirectly by attacking competitor plant mutualists (degraded mutualisms hypothesis). Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) are widespread plant invaders that produce potent secondary compounds that negatively impact plant competitors. We tested whether their impacts were consistent with a direct effect on the tree seedlings (novel weapons) or an indirect attack via degradation of seedling mutualists (degraded mutualism). We compared recruitment and performance using three Ulmus congeners and three Betula congeners treated with allelopathic root macerations from allopatric and sympatric ranges. Moreover, given that the allelopathic species would be less likely to degrade their own fungal symbiont types, we used arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) tree species to investigate the effects of F. japonica (no mycorrhizal association) and Rhamnus cathartica (ECM association) on the different fungal types. We also investigated the effects of F. japonica and R. cathartica exudates on AMF root colonization. Our results suggest that the allelopathic plant exudates impact seedlings directly by inhibiting germination and indirectly by degrading fungal mutualists. Novel weapons inhibited allopatric seedling germination but sympatric species were unaffected. However, seedling survivorship and growth appeared more dependent on mycorrhizal fungi, and mycorrhizal fungi were inhibited by allopatric species. These results suggest that novel weapons promote plant invasion by directly inhibiting allopatric competitor germination and indirectly by inhibiting mutualist fungi necessary for growth and survival.


Allelochemicals Mycology Invasive species Fallopia japonica Polygonum cuspidatum Reynoutria japonica Rhamnus cathartica 



We thank Dr. James Berry at the University of Buffalo for use of the Dorsheimer Laboratory/Greenhouse. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments that improved the manuscript.

Data accessibility

The data generated and analyzed for the current study are available in the SUNY Buffalo State Digital Commons [].

Author contributions

PP conceived the ideas and designed methodology; PP collected the data; PP and RW analyzed the data; PP and RW led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Supplementary material

11258_2018_816_MOESM1_ESM.docx (176 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 175 kb)
11258_2018_816_MOESM2_ESM.docx (754 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 753 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Pinzone
    • 1
  • Daniel Potts
    • 1
  • Gary Pettibone
    • 1
  • Robert WarrenII
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologySUNY Buffalo StateBuffaloUSA

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