Invasion-induced root–fungal disruptions alter plant water and nitrogen economies

Lalasia Bialic-Murphy, Nicholas G. Smith, Priya Voothuluru, Robert M. McElderry, Morgan D. Roche, Steven T. Cassidy, Stephanie N. Kivlin, Susan Kalisz

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite widespread evidence that biological invasion influences both the biotic and abiotic soil environments, the extent to which these two pathways underpin the effects of invasion on plant traits and performance remains unknown. Leveraging a long-term (14-year) field experiment, we show that an allelochemical-producing invader affects plants through biotic mechanisms, altering the soil fungal community composition, with no apparent shifts in soil nutrient availability. Changes in belowground fungal communities resulted in high costs of nutrient uptake for native perennials and a shift in plant traits linked to their water and nutrient use efficiencies. Some plants in the invaded community compensate for the disruption of nutritional symbionts and reduced nutrient provisioning by sanctioning more nitrogen to photosynthesis and expending more water, which demonstrates a trade-off in trait investment. For the first time, we show that the disruption of belowground nutritional symbionts can drive plants towards alternative regions of their trait space in order to maintain water and nutrient economics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1156
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • AM soil fungi and plant traits
  • Allelopathy
  • least cost theory
  • mutualism disruption
  • nutrient use efficiency
  • plant invasion
  • root–fungal symbionts
  • soil microbial community
  • water use efficiency


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