PerspectiveEcology

Exotic plants get a little help from their friends

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Science  29 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6494, pp. 934-936
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc3587

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Summary

Terrestrial ecologists have identified multifaceted controls—climate, biogeography, disturbances, and their interactions—that shape how plant communities in natural ecosystems organize in space and time. Multiple documented interactions directly link plant diversity with other biotic guilds (herbivores, root symbionts, bacteria, and pathogens) and ecosystem processes [carbon (C) and nutrient cycling] (1). However, all appears to go awry when exotic (non-native) plant species invade and establish themselves without human intervention; such changes affect the functioning and diversity of natural ecosystems (2). On page 967 in this issue, Waller et al. (3) provide insight into pathways that explain the underlying relationship between plant invasions and acceleration of a crucial ecosystem process: C turnover.

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