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The role of interactions between plants and soil microbes as drivers of non-native plant invasions in cold-climate ecosystems.

Cold-climate ecosystems have long been considered as relatively "immune" to biological invasions by plants because of the harsh abiotic conditions and the sparsely populated landscapes where transport of seeds and other propagules is low. This premise of low vulnerability is challenged by recent studies in alpine and arctic regions across the globe, showing that non-native plant species are present and expand their distribution. The mechanisms behind the apparently increasing vulnerability of cold-climate ecosystems to biological invasions are however far from understood. One crucial factor – often overlooked in large-scale assessments of non-native species distributions – is the role of biotic interactions, both above- (plant-plant) and belowground (plant-microbe). These biotic interactions will likely be altered significantly under the influence of anthropogenic disturbances (e.g. as seen in mountain road- or trailsides), opening up possibilities for non-native plant introductions.Here, we propose an approach to integrate these above- and belowground species interactions with regional-scale non-native species distribution assessments, in order to quantify their role as drivers (or inhibitors) of plant invasions along mountain roads and trails. We will use Joint Species Distribution Modelling (JSDM), a modelling technique that jointly analyzes multiple species' distributions, quantifying both species-specific environmental responses and covariance among species. The study will be performed in the South-American Andes, in 2 core sites of the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN), a global consortium studying native and non-native plant species distributions in mountains. We specifically request funding to isolate DNA from roots and root-tips of focal non-native plant species and subject it to amplicon sequencing (Illumna Miseq) using fungal (ITS) and arbuscular mycorrhiza (SSU) specific primers, in order to obtain data on the belowground symbiont community.
Date:1 Apr 2019  →  30 Mar 2020
Disciplines:Community ecology, Global ecology, Invasion biology, Soil ecology, Mycology