Although several studies have shown increased native plant establishment with native microbe soil amendments, few studies have investigated how microbes can alter seedling recruitment and establishment in the presence of a non-native competitor. In this study, the effect of microbial communities on seedling biomass and diversity was assessed by seeding pots with both native prairie seeds and a non-native grass that commonly invades US grassland restorations, Setaria faberi. Soil in the pots was inoculated with whole soil collections from ex-arable land, late successional arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi isolated from a nearby tallgrass prairie, with both prairie AM fungi and ex-arable whole soil, or with a sterile soil (control). We hypothesized (1) late successional plants would benefit from native AM fungi, (2) that non-native plants would outcompete native plants in ex-arable soils, and (3) early successional plants would be unresponsive to microbes. Overall, native plant abundance, late successional plant abundance, and total diversity were greatest in the native AM fungi+ ex-arable soil treatment. These increases led to decreased abundance of the non-native grass S. faberi. These results highlight the importance of late successional native microbes on native seed establishment and demonstrate that microbes can be harnessed to improve both plant community diversity and resistance to invasion during the nascent stages of restoration.
Koziol, L.; McKenna, T.P.; Bever, J.D. Native Microbes Amplify Native Seedling Establishment and Diversity While Inhibiting a Non-Native Grass. Plants 2023, 12, 1184. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12051184