Significant alterations in soil fungal communities along a chronosequence of Spartina alterniflora invasion in a Chinese Yellow Sea coastal wetland
Plant invasion typically alters the microbial communities of soils, which affects ecosystem carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles. The responses of the soil fungal communities to plant invasion along its chronosequence remain poorly understood. For this study, we investigated variations in soil fungal communities through Illumina MiSeq sequencing analyses of the fungal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), along a chronosequence (i.e., 9-, 13-, 20- and 23-year-old) of invasive Spartina alterniflora. We compared these variations with those of bare flat in a Chinese Yellow Sea coastal wetland. Our results highlighted that the abundance of soil fungi, the number of operational taxonomic units (OTUs), species richness, and Shannon diversity indices for soil fungal communities were highest in 9-year-old S. alterniflora soil, which gradually declined along the invasion chronosequence. The relative abundance of copiotrophic Basidiomycota revealed significant decreasing trend, while the relative abundance of oligotrophic Ascomycota gradually increased along the S. alterniflora invasion chronosequence. The relative abundance of soil saprotrophic fungi (e.g., undefined saprotrophs) was gradually reduced while symbiotic fungi (e.g., ectomycorrhizal fungi) and pathotrophic fungi (e.g., plant and animal pathogens) progressively increased along the S. alterniflora invasion chronosequence. Our results suggested that S. alterniflora invasion significantly altered soil fungal abundance and diversity, community composition, trophic modes, and functional groups along a chronosequence, via substantially reduced soil litter inputs, and gradually decreased soil pH, moisture, and soil nutrient substrates along the invasion chronosequence, from 9 to 23 years. These changes in soil fungal communities, particularly their trophic modes and functional groups along the S. alterniflora invasion chronosequence could well impact the decomposition and accumulation of soil C and N, while potentially altering ecosystem C and N sinks in a Chinese Yellow Sea coastal wetland.