Previous studies show that ongoing global changes could alter impacts of invasive plants on native vegetation. However, there is limited knowledge about the relationships of invasive plants with belowground faunal communities under climate change. With increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, the study of nematode communities which are abundant and trophically diverse soil biota, in response to invasive plants under elevated CO2 can illustrate potential effects of exotic plant invasions on soil ecosystem functioning.
Dr. XIAO Haifeng and his colleagues of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted a study at Ailaoshan ecological station (24.32° N, 101.01° E) to examine responses of nematode communities to exotic invasive plants and native plants under current and increased CO2. They grew individual plants of two invasive (Ageratina adenophora and Chromolaena odorata) and two native species (Eupatorium japonicum and Eupatorium heterophyllum) under ambient and elevated CO2 under controlled conditions. The researchers also measured the soil nematode abundance, the proportion of nematode trophic groups and their ecological indices to determine their responses to invasive and native plants under different CO2 conditions.
Although limited in scope, the study showed that nematode communities were significantly affected by elevated CO2 and plants invasive characteristics. Elevated CO2 exacerbated the effects of invasive plant C. odorata on the belowground ecosystem. Soil nematode diversity was higher with invasives than with native plants under elevated CO2. Compared with native plants, invasive plants developed more stable belowground ecosystems that improved their colonization success under CO2 enrichment. If invasive plants more strongly benefit from elevated CO2, their effects on belowground ecosystems may further increase their success.
The study entitled “Influence of invasive plants on nematode communities under simulated CO2 enrichment” has been published online in European Journal of Soil Biology.