Effect of enhanced atmospheric CO2 on mycorrhizal colonization and phosphorus inflow in 10 herbaceous species of contrasting growth strategies



1. Ten herbaceous species were grown over a 4-month period under ambient (360 μmol mol–1) and elevated (610 μmol mol–1) atmospheric CO2 conditions. Plants were inoculated with the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus Glomus mosseae and given a phosphorus (P) supply which was not immediately available to the plants.

2. Multiple harvests were taken in order to determine whether the effect of elevated CO2 on mycorrhizal colonization and phosphorus inflow was independent of its effect on plant growth.

3. All species grew faster under elevated CO2 and carbon partitioning was altered, generally in favour of the shoots. All species responded similarly to elevated CO2.

4. Elevated CO2 did not affect the percentage of root length colonized by AM fungi, but the total amount of colonized root length was increased, because the plants were bigger.

5. Elevated CO2 increased total P content, but had little or no effect on P concentration. At a given age, P inflow was stimulated by elevated CO2, but when root length was taken into account the CO2 effect disappeared.

6. In these host species there is no evidence for a direct effect of elevated CO2 on mycorrhizal functioning, because both internal mycorrhizal colonization and P inflow are unaffected.

7. Future research should concentrate on the potential for carbon flow to the soil via the external mycelial network.