At the University of Rhode Island, Laura Meyerson has a garden of phragmites collected from all around the world. Phragmites are more commonly known as reeds. While these reeds are the same species, each plant lineage exhibits different bacterial communities in the soil. This discovery will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success.
The reed species native to North America has inhabited local wetlands for thousands of years, but a European lineage is starting to take over many marshes in North American. The researchers noticed that the microbes associated with the native reeds had more kinds of bacteria that are used to defend the plant from enemy attackers than the microbes associated with the invasive variety.
Meyerson said her results provide a new perspective for those managing land and trying to control invasive plants. We can't just focus on the above ground--we have to look below at the microbial communities in the roots to study how they affect ecosystems from the ground up. Read more about this discovery at Science Daily.