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Millions of acres of grasslands in the Western United States remain invaded by the Eurasian weeds, in spite of interventions including herbicide applications, biological control agents, and changes in managements. Restoration efforts rarely re-establish complex native communities, most likely is due to invasion-mediated shifts in soil microbial communities and ecosystem processes.

Figure caption: A diverse native community and a leafy spurge invasion on the MPG Ranch. While the aboveground shifts in plant communities are easily appreciated, invasion-mediated shifts in belowground microbial communities and ecosystem processes are less known, but could be driving subsequent invasions and influence restoration success.

Photo credits: Chris Gallagher and Lauren Stoffel.

MPG Ranch recently joined the EMP ( to characterize potential shifts in soil microbial communities associated with knapweed, cheatgrass and leafy spurge invasions. We are excited to assist with EMP’s goal to characterize global microbial taxonomic and functional diversity. This collaboration will allow us to assess how the invasion-mediated simplification of plant communities influences soil microbial function and diversity, and identify the relationship between microbial community composition and ecosystem function. The overall goal is to utilize this knowledge to develop better restoration practices that set invaded communities on trajectories towards diverse native communities.

About the Author

Ylva Lekberg

Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow have allowed her to explore the role of mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology and New Phytologist.

Ylva currently works at MPG Ranch as a soil ecologist. She explores the role of mycorrhiza in the success of exotic plants and examines the use of specific pathogens to combat invasions. In her spare time Ylva mountain-bikes, plays soccer, and maintains a large vegetable garden.