Skylar Craig

Rice University, Houston, TX, United States

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Publications (1)1.44 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Microbial symbionts can improve the competitive ability and stress tolerance of plant hosts and thus may enhance native plant resistance against invaders. We investigated whether symbiosis between a native grass, Poa alsodes, and a fungal endophyte (Neotyphodium sp.) improved the grass’s ability to compete against Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass), a common invader in the eastern USA. We challenged naturally endophyte-symbiotic and experimentally endophyte-free P. alsodes plants with the invader. In the first experiment, we manipulated symbiosis and water availability to test for context-dependency in symbiont benefits. In the second experiment, we manipulated symbiosis and M. vimineum diversity (the number of invader populations), since greater intraspecific diversity is expected to improve invasion success and might alter the efficacy of symbiosis in invasion resistance. In both experiments, presence of the endophyte reduced the per plant biomass of M. vimineum and increased P. alsodes biomass. We found no evidence that benefits of the symbiont depended on water availability, and population-level diversity had a minor influence on M. vimineum: inflorescence number showed a parabolic relationship with increasing numbers of M. vimineum populations. Overall, symbiosis in the native grass had stronger effects on invader growth than either water availability or invader genetic diversity. Our results suggest that endophyte symbioses in native plants can increase host performance against an invader, although this conclusion needs confirmation in more complex field settings where other important factors, such as herbivores and fluctuating abiotic conditions, come into play. KeywordsFungal endophyte–Genetic diversity–Population ecology–Symbiosis–Invasive species–Japanese stiltgrass
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2011 · Symbiosis