This study aimed to thoroughly investigate communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in six coastal, mined, reconstituted and revegetated dune areas in Northeast Brazil. AMF spore density and species richness as well as the numbers of infective AMF propagules and glomalin-related soil protein (GRSP) were analyzed. Four areas had been restored for 16, 12, 8 and 4 years, and after being mined, reconstituted and re-vegetated, the fifth was mined and reconstituted but not yet re-vegetated, and the sixth had a native and undisturbed coastal forest vegetation. The soil samples were sampled in the dry and wet seasons of 2005. The number of infective propagules was significantly higher in the dry than in wet season, except in the un-vegetated dune area, which had less than 0·2 propagules cm−3 soil. AMF spore density and especially GRSP contents changed little between the seasons. GRSP contents were positively correlated to Al and Fe soil levels and were highest in the restinga forest. In total, 29 AMF species were identified, and glomoid and gigasporoid species predominated in all areas. AMF species richness and viable propagules of AMF were lowest in the un-vegetated dune area. Remarkably, higher species richness (28) was found in the re-vegetated areas, compared with the forest area that had only 10 species. The numbers of infective propagules tended to be also lower in the forest than in the re-vegetated sites. In conclusion, re-vegetation appears to favour the AMF communities in terms of infective propagule numbers and AMF species richness. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.