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Keywords:

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi;
  • herbivory;
  • mycophagy;
  • mycorrhizal inoculum potential;
  • rodent;
  • rain forest;
  • spore dispersal;
  • terrestrial vertebrate

We examined whether terrestrial vertebrates affected the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal spore communities and mycorrhizal inoculum potential (MIP) of a tropical rain forest soil by comparing plots where terrestrial vertebrates had been excluded for 3 years to adjacent control plots. We extracted spores from soil using sucrose density gradient centrifugation and assayed MIP by growing seedlings of maize (Zea mays) and a rain forest tree (Flindersia brayleana) in intact soil cores from exclosure and control plots. Control plots had significantly higher spore abundance, species richness and diversity than exclosures. Spore community composition also differed significantly between exclosure and control plots. Seedlings of both plant species grown in control cores had significantly higher arbuscular-mycorrhizal colonization than those grown in exclosure cores. This study suggests that loss of vertebrates could alter rates of mycorrhizal colonization with consequences for community and ecosystem properties.