Suppression of native Melaleuca ericifolia by the invasive Phragmites australis through allelopathic root exudates

Md Nazim Uddin, Randall William Robinson, Domenic Caridi, Md Abdullah Yousuf Al Harun
American Journal of Botany 2014, 101 (3): 479-87

PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Invasive plants are a great threat to the conservation of natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Allelopathy as a mechanism for invasion of plants such as Phragmites australis, one of the most aggressive invaders, has the potential to suppress neighboring plant species. Allelopathic interference, through root exudates of P. australis on native Melaleuca ericifolia, was investigated to find out the underlying invasion mechanisms.

METHODS: Germination and growth effects of P. australis on M. ericifolia were studied in the greenhouse using potting mix both with and without activated carbon, and a combination of single and repeated cuttings of P. australis as the management tool.

KEY RESULTS: P. AUSTRALIS had significant negative effects on germination and growth of M. ericifolia by inhibiting germination percentage, maximum root length and plant height, biomass, stem diameter, and number of growth points with little effect on leaf physiology. Activated carbon (AC) in turn moderately counteracted these effects. The cutting of P. australis shoots significantly reduced the suppressive effects on M. ericifolia compared to the addition of AC to soil. Furthermore, significant changes in soil such as pH, electrical conductivity, osmotic potential, phenolics, and dehydrogenase activity were identified among cutting treatments with little variation between AC treatments.

CONCLUSION: The results demonstrated that allelopathy through root exudates of P. australis had relatively low contribution in suppressing M. ericifolia in comparison to other competitive effects. Management tools combining repeated cutting of P. australis shoots with AC treatments may assist partly in the restoration of native ecosystems invaded by P. australis.

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