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No difference in the competitive ability of introduced and native Trifolium provenances when grown with soil biota from their introduced and native ranges

Roots of a Trifolium striatum plant being washed prior to being oven-dried and weighed for the relative competitive index (RCI) calculations. Plants were grown in glasshouse pots inoculated with soil microbiota that was collected from the rhizosphere of conspecific plants in their native or introduced ranges. Photo by Natasha Shelby.
Roots of a Trifolium striatum plant being washed prior to being oven-dried and weighed for the relative competitive index (RCI) calculations. Plants were grown in glasshouse pots inoculated with soil microbiota that was collected from the rhizosphere of conspecific plants in their native or introduced ranges. Photo by Natasha Shelby.

A new biogeographic study published in AoB PLANTS by Shelby et al. tested the evolution of increased competitive ability (EICA) hypothesis—a compelling explanation for why plants become invasive. The authors measured the growth rates and competitive ability of three Trifolium species sourced from their native (Spain and the UK) and New Zealand-naturalised ranges when grown singly and in competition with conspecifics from a different provenance in the presence of different microbial communities. Although EICA was not supported (naturalised plants were not more competitive) the differences in plant competitive ability when grown with different rhizosphere microbial communities illustrate that soil microbiota affect plant growth and competition. The work illustrates an important finding: growth of singly-grown plants doesn’t always predict competitive ability.

Written by AoBPLANTS

AoB PLANTS is an open-access, online journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of environmental and evolutionary biology. Published by Oxford University Press, AoB PLANTS provides a fast-track pathway for publishing high-quality research, where papers are available online to anyone, anywhere free of charge. Reasons to publish in AoB PLANTS include double-blind peer review of manuscripts, rapid processing time and low open-access charges.

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