Buffelgrass invasion and glyphosate effects on desert soil microbiome communities

Elise S. Gornish, Kim Franklin, Julia Rowe, Albert Barberán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Buffelgrass (Cenchus ciliaris) is a drought-tolerant invasive grass in the Americas and Australia that significantly impacts native plant communities and ecosystems. Despite the clear need to develop a comprehensive understanding of how buffelgrass is able to invade and rapidly establish in arid ecosystems, there is still a lack of knowledge as to if and how this weed might change the soil microbiome in a way that affects its dominance in the presence of management. We investigated the effect of buffelgrass on soil microbial communities in areas that have either been exposed to or not exposed to glyphosate in Saguaro National Park, Arizona USA. We found that buffelgrass roots in invaded areas are surrounded by a distinct soil community that includes a greater number of nitrifiers than in uninvaded soil. We also observed increases in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, ectomycorrhizal fungi and methanotrophs with buffelgrass invasion compared to uninvaded soil. Finally, we found no evidence of glyphosate effects on the soil microbiome. Overall, our study results suggest that buffelgrass can escape the limitation of nutrient availability in arid ecosystems by directly or indirectly modifying the soil microbiome. The competitive dominance of buffelgrass in arid systems might be indirectly enhanced by nitrifiers and fungal symbionts, which are often involved in rapid biomass accumulation. This work highlights the importance of soil microbiome considerations in weed science research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2587-2597
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Bacteria
  • Cenchrus ciliaris
  • Fungi
  • Glyphosate
  • Pennisetum ciliare
  • Weeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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