Plant range expansion is occurring at a rapid pace, largely in response to human-induced climate warming. Although the movement of plants along latitudinal and altitudinal gradients is well-documented, effects on belowground microbial communities remain largely unknown. Furthermore, for range expansion, not all plant species are equal: in a new range, the relatedness between range-expanding plant species and native flora can influence plant–microorganism interactions. Here we use a latitudinal gradient spanning 3,000 km across Europe to examine bacterial and fungal communities in the rhizosphere and surrounding soils of range-expanding plant species. We selected range-expanding plants with and without congeneric native species in the new range and, as a control, the congeneric native species, totalling 382 plant individuals collected across Europe. In general, the status of a plant as a range-expanding plant was a weak predictor of the composition of bacterial and fungal communities. However, microbial communities of range-expanding plant species became more similar to each other further from their original range. Range-expanding plants that were unrelated to the native community also experienced a decrease in the ratio of plant pathogens to symbionts, giving weak support to the enemy release hypothesis. Even at a continental scale, the effects of plant range expansion on the belowground microbiome are detectable, although changes to specific taxa remain difficult to decipher.
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We are grateful for the support of Ž. Modrić-Surina, S. Dragićević, I. Starke and M. Hohla, who all helped with sampling. This work was supported in large part by the European Research Council (ERC advanced grant ERC-Adv 323020 (SPECIALS) to W.H.v.d.P. Additional support came from the Estonian Research Council (grant PUTJD78) (K.K.) and the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding no. P1-0236) (B.V. and T.Č.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Ramirez, K.S., Snoek, L.B., Koorem, K. et al. Range-expansion effects on the belowground plant microbiome. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 604–611 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0828-z
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