Soil microbial communities and nitrogen associated with cheatgrass invasion in a sagebrush shrubland

Raven Reitstetter, Ben Yang, Aaron D. Tews, Albert Barberán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cheatgrass invasion of Intermountain sagebrush steppe in the western United States poses increasing challenges to the function and survival of this native ecosystem. The invasive success and persistence of cheatgrass has been attributed to the increasing soil total nitrogen, but mechanisms behind remain inconclusive. We hypothesized that soil microorganisms play a role in soil nitrogen associated with cheatgrass invasion. Methods: We collected soil samples from the root zone of cheatgrass, native bunchgrass, and sagebrush at two depths and from two adjacent sites in April. We examined soil chemical properties (pH, moisture content, and NH4+ and NO3 concentration) and soil microbial communities. Results: We found that cheatgrass invasion was associated with different soil microbial community composition compared to native bunchgrass and sagebrush. In particular, we observed higher relative abundances of N2 fixers and ureolytic bacteria and lower relative abundance of denitrifiers providing a potential mechanistic belowground explanation of raising soil nitrogen. Conclusions: Overall, our results indicate the importance of soil microorganisms in the dominance and persistence of invasive species. Targeted microbiome interventions should be considered to control cheatgrass invasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-336
Number of pages12
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Cheatgrass
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Plant invasion
  • Sagebrush steppe
  • Soil microbial communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

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