Diversity and Distributions
Invasive Acacia species have negatively impacted natural areas in multiple regions around the globe. Almost 400 Acacia species have been introduced outside their native ranges in Australia; approximately 6% have become invasive, 12% are naturalized, and 82% have no record of naturalization or invasion. This variation in invasiveness provides a comparative framework in which to examine mechanisms that either promote or constrain establishment and colonization of species in novel regions. Here, we experimentally examine the role that the legume–rhizobia symbiosis plays in the differential invasiveness of acacias introduced outside their native Australian ranges.
We paired 12 Acacia species ranging in invasiveness globally with 12 rhizobial strains ranging in average symbiotic effectiveness. We measured plant growth and nodulation success and abundance to assess whether invasive acacias were more promiscuous hosts, that is had positive growth and nodulation responses to a broader range of rhizobial strains than naturalized and non-invasive species.
Invasive acacias had a higher growth response across more rhizobial strains (six of 12 strains) than naturalized and non-invasive species, but invasiveness categories differed only moderately with regard to the percentage of plants with nodules and nodulation abundance.
With respect to plant growth, invasive acacias appear to be more promiscuous hosts than naturalized and non-invasive Australian Acacia species. Plant growth response to nodulation, however, is likely more important than nodulation alone in the successful invasion of species in novel ranges. Results from this study help elucidate an important mechanism in the invasive capacity of legumes.
Metha M. Klock, Luke G. Barrett, Peter H. Thrall, and Kyle E. Harms. "Host promiscuity in symbiont associations can influence exotic legume establishment and colonization of novel ranges" Diversity and Distributions (2015): 1193-1203. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12363