Availability of soil mutualists may not limit non-native Acacia invasion but could increase their impact on native soil communities

Elizabeth M. Wandrag, Christina Birnbaum, Metha M. Klock, Luke G. Barrett, Peter H. Thrall

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The availability of compatible mutualistic soil microbes could influence the invasion success of non-native plant species. Specifically, there may be spatial variation in the distribution of compatible microbes, and species-specific variation in plant host ability to associate with available microbes. Although either or both factors could promote or limit invasion, the scale over which most studies are conducted makes it difficult to examine these two possibilities simultaneously. However, this is critical to identifying a role of soil microbes in invasion. A series of recent research projects focused on interactions between Australian Acacia and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) at multiple spatial scales, from the local to the inter-continental, has allowed us to evaluate this question. Collectively, this research reveals that nodulation, performance and rhizobial community composition are all broadly similar across spatial scales and differentially invasive species. Synthesis and applications. We argue that current research provides convincing evidence that interactions with rhizobia do not determine invasion success in Acacia, but instead highlights key knowledge gaps that remain unfilled. Importantly, the ease with which non-native Acacia species form mutualistic associations with rhizobia, regardless of invasive status, highlights the critical need to understand the impacts of all non-native Acacia on native soil communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-793
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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