Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geosciences

First Advisor's Name

Krishnaswamy Jayachandran

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Florentin Maurrasse

Third Advisor's Name

Joel Heinen

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michael Sukop

Fifth Advisor's Name

Suzanne Koptur

Keywords

invasive species management, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), relative growth rate (RGR), mycorrhizal dependency, element toxicity, plant-soil interactions, nutrient cycle, soil pH, soil organic matter, habitat restoration

Date of Defense

10-31-2013

Abstract

The state of Florida has one of the most severe exotic species invasion problems in the United States, but little is known about their influence on soil biogeochemistry. My dissertation research includes a cross-continental field study in Australia, Florida, and greenhouse and growth chamber experiments, focused on the soil-plant interactions of one of the most problematic weeds introduced in south Florida, Lygodium microphyllum (Old World climbing fern). Analysis of field samples from the ferns introduced and their native range indicate that L microphyllum is highly dependent on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) for phosphorus uptake and biomass accumulation. Relationship with AMF is stronger in relatively dry conditions, which are commonly found in some Florida sites, compared to more common wet sites where the fern is found in its native Australia. In the field, L. microphyllum is found to thrive in a wide range of soil pH, texture, and nutrient conditions, with strongly acidic soils in Australia and slightly acidic soils in Florida. Soils with pH 5.5 - 6.5 provide the most optimal growth conditions for L. microphyllum, and the growth declines significantly at soil pH 8.0, indicating that further reduction could happen in more alkaline soils. Comparison of invaded and uninvaded soil characteristics demonstrates that L. microphyllum can change the belowground soil environment, with more conspicuous impact on nutrient-poor sandy soils, to its own benefit by enhancing the soil nutrient status. Additionally, the nitrogen concentration in the leaves, which has a significant influence in the relative growth rate and photosynthesis, was significantly higher in Florida plants compared to Australian plants. Given that L. microphyllum allocates up to 40% of the total biomass to rhizomes, which aid in rapid regeneration after burning, cutting or chemical spray, hence management techniques targeting the rhizomes look promising. Over all, my results reveal for the first time that soil pH, texture, and AMF are major factors facilitating the invasive success of L. mcirophyllum. Finally, herbicide treatments targeting rhizomes will most likely become the widely used technique to control invasiveness of L. microphyllum in the future. However, a complete understanding of the soil ecosystem is necessary before adding any chemicals to the soil to achieve a successful long-term invasive species management strategy.

Identifier

FI13120201

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