Functional complementarity in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis



The causes and consequences of biodiversity are central themes in ecology. Perhaps one reason for much of the current interest in biodiversity is the belief that the loss of species (by extinction) or their gain (by invasion) will significantly influence ecosystem function. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are components of most terrestrial ecosystems and, while many research programs have shown that variability among species or isolates of AM fungi does occur (Giovannetti & Gianinazzi-Pearson, 1994), the basis for this variability and its consequences to the function of communities and ecosystems remains largely unexplored. Smith et al. (pp. 357–366 in this issue) now show clearly that ecologically significant functional diversity exists among AM fungal species in the regions of the soil from which they absorb phosphate, and their results suggest that such diversity may have significant ecological consequences.