• arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi;
  • decomposition;
  • organic material;
  • spatial heterogeneity;
  • intra- and interspecific competition


  • The capture of nitrogen (N) by plants from N-rich complex organic material differing in spatial (uniform dispersion or discrete patches) heterogeneity was measured, as well as the subsequent impact on N capture of the addition of a mycorrhizal inoculum ( Glomus hoi ).
  • The organic material was dual-labelled with 15 N and 13 C to follow plant uptake of N (as 15 N) and to determine the amounts of original 13 C and 15 N which remained in the soil at harvest. The organic material was added to microcosm units containing Lolium perenne or Plantago lanceolata in intra or interspecific competition.
  • Plant N capture from the dispersed organic material was more than twice that from the discrete patch (dispersed: 17%; discrete: 8%). There was no effect of species composition or the mycorrhizal inoculum on total plant N capture except when in interspecific plant competition. Here, N capture was dependent on the root length produced and was always higher when the mycorrhizal inoculum was present.
  • Mycorrhizal colonization increased N capture from the organic material when in interspecific plant competition but not in monoculture.