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Invasive Grass Dominance Over Native Forbs Is Linked To Shifts In The Bacterial Rhizosphere Microbiome

Marina L. LaForgia, Hannah Kang, Cassandra L. Ettinger

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AbstractRhizosphere microbiomes have received growing attention in recent years for their role in plant health, stress tolerance, soil nutrition, and invasion. Still, relatively little is known about how these microbial communities are altered under plant competition, and even less about whether these shifts are tied to competitive outcomes between native and invasive plants. We investigated the structure and diversity of rhizosphere bacterial and fungal microbiomes of native annual forbs and invasive annual grasses individually and in competition using high-throughput amplicon sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene and the fungal ITS region. We assessed how differentially abundant microbial families correlate to plant biomass under competition We find that bacterial diversity and structure differ between native forbs and invasive grasses, but fungal diversity and structure do not. Further, bacterial community structures under competition are distinct from individual bacterial community structures. We also identified five bacterial families that varied in normalized abundance between treatments and that were correlated with plant biomass under competition. We speculate that invasive grass dominance over these natives may be partially due to effects on the rhizosphere community, with changes in specific bacterial families potentially benefiting invaders at the expense of natives.