Defoliation and mycorrhizal symbiosis: a functional balance between carbon sources and below-ground sinks


Kari Saikkonen E-mail:


Herbivory is generally assumed to negatively influence mycorrhizal fungi because of reduced photosynthate to support mycorrhizae following defoliation. We examined effects of 60% and 100% defoliation (excluding current year needles) on tree growth and ectomycorrhizal associations of 10–15 year old Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). Over 98% of short roots were colonized by mycorrhizal fungi, and contrary to expectation, defoliation did not decrease the proportion of living fungi in fine roots. Furthermore, defoliation did not alter the ratios of produced needle biomass to the biomass of fine roots or living fungi in fine roots. The composition of mycorrhizal morphotypes was changed, however, which suggests competition among different mycorrhizal growth forms owing to their carbon demands. We propose that these outcomes are a consequence of a functional balance between carbon sources in plant foliage and below-ground sinks, i.e. growing roots and mycorrhizal associates.