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Keywords:

  • Betula lenta;
  • ectomycorrhizae;
  • phytotoxicity;
  • Pisolithus tinctorius;
  • reforestation;
  • seedling nutrition;
  • sweet birch;
  • water relations

Abstract

Induced mycorrhization of sweet birch (Betula lenta L.) by Pisolithus tinctorius (Pers.) Coker & Couch, as influenced by substrate fertility, was evaluated for its effects on seedling growth and physiology. Following a brief period in seed flats, seedlings were transplanted to mine spoil where they resided for 30 months, and three nutrition regimes were imposed throughout the study by application of differing nutrient solution concentrations. High fertility suppressed mycorrhizal formation by P. tinctorius but promoted that of other mycobionts. Pisolithus mycorrhization induced substantial aboveground and belowground growth as indicated by dimensions and mass for the former and mass and length for the latter but favoring root over shoot growth overall. Furthermore, these mycorrhizae were frequently able to compensate for the growth stimulation of higher nutrient additions. Measurements of xylem pressure potential and soil water potential indicated that water uptake was enhanced by P. tinctorius during simulated drought episodes of two durations and in subsequent recovery periods. Inoculated seedlings had higher foliar concentrations of critical nutrients, especially N, and lower concentrations of potentially phytotoxic metallic elements, particularly Mn, than uninoculated seedlings, although the latter response was absent in high fertility. Spoil analyses clearly revealed the influence of the nutrition regimes but also the effects of seedling uptake on substrate chemistry, and reinforced the findings of the foliar analysis concerning suppression of metal uptake by P. tinctorius. Collectively, these results suggest that P. tinctorius can provide sweet birch an array of physiological benefits that will permit this tree species to flourish on harsh substrates such as surface mine spoils without heavy application of chemical fertilizers.