Soil nitrogen dynamics and competition during plant invasion: insights from Mikania micrantha invasions in China

Hanxia Yu, Jaco Le Roux*, Zhaoyang Jiang, Feng Sun, Changlian Peng, Weihua Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)
    13 Downloads (Pure)


    Invasive plants often change a/biotic soil conditions to increase their competitiveness. We compared the microbially mediated soil nitrogen (N) cycle of invasive Mikania micrantha and two co-occurring native competitors, Persicaria chinensis and Paederia scandens.

    We assessed how differences in plant tissue N content, soil nutrients, N cycling rates, microbial biomass and activity, and diversity and abundance of N-cycling microbes associated with these species impact their competitiveness. 

    Mikania micrantha outcompeted both native species by transferring more N to plant tissue (37.9–55.8% more than natives). We found total soil N to be at lowest, and available N highest, in M. micrantha rhizospheres, suggesting higher N cycling rates compared with both natives. Higher microbial biomass and enzyme activities in M. micrantha rhizospheres confirmed this, being positively correlated with soil N mineralization rates and available N. Mikania micrantha rhizospheres harbored highly diverse N-cycling microbes, including N-fixing, ammonia-oxidizing and denitrifying bacteria and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Structural equation models indicated that M. micrantha obtained available N via AOA-mediated nitrification mainly. Field data mirrored our experimental findings. 

    Nitrogen availability is elevated under M. micrantha invasion through enrichment of microbes that participate in N cycling, in turn increasing available N for plant growth, facilitating high interspecific competition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3440-3452
    Number of pages13
    JournalNew Phytologist
    Issue number6
    Early online date1 Dec 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


    • Mikania micrantha
    • biological invasions
    • functional microbial diversity
    • nitrification
    • nitrogen cycle
    • nitrogen fixation


    Dive into the research topics of 'Soil nitrogen dynamics and competition during plant invasion: insights from Mikania micrantha invasions in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this