Mycorrhizal symbiosis is a mutualist association between plants and fungi which may be critical under stressful environmental conditions, like in Mediterranean forests constrained by water stress and resource scarcity.
Researchers of the IRNAS-CSIC and the University of Córdoba have studied how the degrees of colonization by ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi were related to other root and leaf traits, in woody plant communities of Sierra Morena (Córdoba) distributed along a gradient of soil resources.
The level of ECM colonization was positively related to the abundance of evergreen species and to tissue dry matter content (in leaves and roots), but negatively to specific root length and specific leaf area. The best abiotic predictor of ECM colonization was soil moisture, with higher ECM colonization in drier sites.
However, AM colonization was not related to any of the plant traits studied and was positively related to soil Cu and other physico-chemical soil properties.
Changes in community ECM mycorrhization were primarily due to plant species turnover, while in the case of AM colonization was more important the intraspecific variability.
The proposed mycorrhizal trait-based approach is novel and useful to understand the functioning of Mediterranean forests and shrublands.
The study has been published (on line since August 29 2016) in the Journal of Vegetation Science.
Navarro-Fernández CM, Pérez-Ramos IM, de la Riva EG, Vera JR, Roumet C, Villar R, Marañón T (2016). Functional responses of Mediterranean plant communities to soil resource heterogeneity: a mycorrhizal trait-based approach. Journal of Vegetation Science, DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12446.