Rhizosphere Organisms as determinants of Biological Invasion by exotic plant species (ROBIN)
Coordinator - Susana rodriguez-Echeverria
Programme - POCI/BIA-BDE/56941/2004
Execution dates - 2005-06-01 - 2008-05-01 (35 Months)
Funding Entity - FCT
Total Funding - 95 000 €
Proponent Institution -
Participating Institutions
Department of Botany. University of Coimbra.
In spite of the advance of research in soil ecology, the importance of belowground communities for the processes of invasion by exotic plant species is still largely unknown. Native soil organisms can have a large effect on the success of exotic species, either directly or by altering competition with other native species. In addition, the exotic plant species can modify the microbial composition of the soil beneath them impairing the growth of native species.
Research about mutualisms and antagonisms involving invasive plants and soil organisms has the potential to improve our understanding of the increase of noxious exotic plants around the world. As a model to study the role of rhizosphere organisms in plant invasions we have selected a case in the Natural Reserve of São Jacinto. This area is extensively invaded by the Australian woody legume Acacia longifolia which has displaced other native woody legumes from the system. With this project we aim at evaluating whether there are significant differences in the rhizosphere community associated to A. longifolia and to the native species Ulex europaeus and whether those differences can explain the invasiveness of the former. We will focus in the main groups of rhizosphere organisms that affect plant growth and survival: arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), Rhizobiaceae bacteria, plant parasitic nematodes (and their natural enemies) and pathogenic fungi.