Interactions among mycorrhizae, atmospheric CO2 and soil N impact plant community composition

Authors

  • Nancy Collins Johnson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-5694, USA
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  • Julie Wolf,

    1. Departments of Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-5694, USA
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  • George W. Koch

    1. Departments of Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-5694, USA
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*Correspondence: E-mail: nancy.johnson@nau.edu

Abstract

We examined plant community responses to interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and availability of atmospheric CO2 and soil N. Communities of 14 plant species were grown in mesocosms containing living or killed AM fungal inoculum, ambient or elevated atmospheric CO2 and low or enriched soil N. After one growing season, significantly different plant communities existed in the different treatments. Plant species richness was lowest in +N mesocosms and highest in +AM + CO2 mesocosms. At ambient CO2, AM fungi reduced richness but at elevated CO2 they increased it. This was caused by changes in mortality rates of several C3 forbs and may suggest that CO2 enrichment ameliorates the carbon cost of some AM symbioses. Soil moisture was higher in +CO2 mesocosms but +AM counteracted this effect. These results suggest that AM symbioses may be important mediators of plant community responses to anthropogenic CO2 and N enrichment.

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