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Plant-Mycorrhizal Community Dynamics Associated with a Moisture Gradient within a Rehabilitated Prairie Fen

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Abstract

Wetland ecosystems have ecological significance in areas such as natural waste purification and nutrient cycling. Much has been accomplished in determining the floristic and edaphic characteristics of wetlands, but little is known about key structure-function relationships such as mycorrhizae. We collected descriptive data on the plant and mycorrhizal fungal community associated with a moisture gradient along a rehabilitated prairie fen to assist in ongoing restoration efforts (Zimmerman Prairie, Greene County, Ohio). Analysis of soil samples from the prairie fen indicated that significant levels of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal infection occurred within both the prairie and fen plant species (infection level means ranging from 20% to 47%). Mycorrhizal root infection was significantly correlated with all edaphic factors tested—soil moisture, organic matter, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and pH—from May to October 1994. The plant-mycorrhizal data clearly indicate the presence of mycorrhizae in soils that are saturated or even inundated. The functional role of mycorrhizae in wetlands is still unclear, however. For example, is the species interaction we are observing truly mutualistic or of some other form due to environmental conditions? Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal relationships in all classes of wetland ecosystems need to be studied further if we are to understand their potential role in the ecological restoration of wetland ecosystems.

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