Biological plant invasions impact the function and biodiversity of ecosystems across the globe by displacing native plant species and altering the physical and chemical soil environment. While much is known about direct competition between invasive and native plants, ecologists have just begun to uncover the less obvious impact of plant invasion: changes to the soil fungal community. Fungi are important to the survival of many plant species and an integral part of a healthy soil system. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are plant mutualistic symbionts that associate with many species and provide necessary services, such as increasing surface area for root water absorption and resistance to pathogens, while ectomycorrhizal fungi play an equally important role and are critical for plant nutrient acquisition in boreal and temperate forests. Invasive plants are altering the soil fungal community in ways that indirectly impact the structure of native plant communities, sometimes for years after the invasive plant has been removed from an area (i.e., legacy effects). These changes make restoration especially difficult in areas from which long-term plant invasions have been eradicated; in some cases these changes can be so severe that even with active management, they take months or decades to reverse.
Part of the book: Diversity and Ecology of Invasive Plants