The interaction between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and soil phosphorus availability influences plant community productivity and ecosystem stability



  1. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can influence plant community composition and diversity. Previous research has shown that the addition of nutrients reduces the effectiveness of AMF. However, the ways in which soil nutrient availability and AMF interact and affect plant community productivity and ecosystem stability are still poorly understood.
  2. We examined the impact of AMF suppression and phosphorus (P) addition on plant diversity, community productivity and temporal stability (TS) in a field experiment. AMF root colonization and the concentration of an AMF-specific phospholipid fatty acid were significantly reduced after application of the fungicide benomyl as a soil drench.
  3. The TS of the plant community was higher in communities without benomyl application compared with communities with benomyl application indicating that AMF contribute to the TS of plant communities. AMF suppression increased productivity at the plant species, functional group and community levels under high P addition rates. At the zero P addition rate, AMF did not affect plant community productivity, as the dominant species Artemisia frigida was more abundant in control plots with AMF, while the subdominant species Stipa krylovii was more abundant in the benomyl-treated plots with reduced AMF abundance. Compensatory effects between C3 grasses and non-N2-fixing forbs were observed in the control plots with AMF along the gradient of P addition rates, but these effects were not detected among plant species in the benomyl-treated plots under AMF suppression above an addition rate of 4.76 P2O5 m−2 year−1. Although AMF suppression did not influence the diversity of the plant communities, it did decrease the diversity of N2-fixing forbs at the zero P addition rate and above an addition rate of 18.90 g P2O5 m−2 year−1, indicating that AMF play key roles in the maintenance of N2-fixing forbs at these P addition rates. P addition led to biodiversity losses at application rates below 2.36 g P2O5 m−2 year−1 at the community level.
  4. Synthesis. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and soil P availability interact to influence the productivity and TS of a plant community by mediating compensatory effects among plant species and functional groups.