Aims Changes in soil microbial communities after occupation by invasive alien plants can represent legacy effects of invasion that may limit recolonization and establishment of native plant species in soils previously occupied by the invader. In this study, for three sites in southern Germany, we investigated whether invasion by giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) leads to changes in soil biota that result in reduced growth of native plants compared with neighbouring uninvaded soils.
Methods We grew four native plant species as a community and treated those plants with soil solutions from invaded or uninvaded soils that were sterilized, or live, with live solutions containing different fractions of the soil biota using a decreasing sieve mesh-size approach. We measured aboveground biomass of the plants in the communities after a 10-week growth period.Main Findings Across all three sites and regardless of invasion, communities treated with <20 μm soil biota or sterilized soil solutions had significantly greater biomass than communities treated with the complete soil biota solution. This indicates that soil biota>20 μm are more pathogenic to the native plants than smaller organisms in these soils. Across all three sites, there was only a non-significant tendency for the native community biomass to differ among soil solution types, depending on whether or not the soil was invaded. Only one site showed significant differences in community biomass among soil solution types, depending on whether or not the soil was invaded; community biomass was significantly lower when treated with the complete soil biota solution than with soil biota <20 μm or sterilized soil solutions, but only for the invaded soil. Our findings suggest that efforts to restore native communities on soils previously invaded by Solidago gigantea are unlikely to be hindered by changes in soil microbial community composition as a result of previous invasion.