Composition of root-colonizing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in different ecosystems around the globe


and present address: Maarja Öpik, Scottish Chop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK (e-mail


  • 1Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are obligate root symbionts that are present in most terrestrial ecosystems and have roles in plant mineral nutrition, carbon cycling and biotic interactions. In this work, 26 publications were surveyed that report on the occurrence of natural root-colonizing AM fungi identified using rDNA region sequences. A total of 52 host plant species were investigated. Sixteen publications provided data enabling a comparison to be made of AM fungal taxon richness and community composition across 36 host plant species and 25 locations. Ninety-five fungal taxa (small subunit rRNA gene sequence types) were involved, 49 of which were recorded from at least two study sites, and 65 from more than one host plant species.
  • 2The number of AM fungal taxa per host plant species differed between habitat types: a significantly higher richness was found in tropical forests (18.2 fungal taxa per plant species), followed by grasslands (8.3), temperate forests (5.6) and habitats under anthropogenic influence (arable fields and polluted sites, 5.2).
  • 3AM fungal communities exhibit differing compositions in broadly defined habitat types: tropical forests, temperate forests and habitats under anthropogenic influence. Grassland locations around the world host heterogeneous AM fungal communities.
  • 4A number of AM fungi had a global distribution, including sequence types related to the Glomus intraradices/fasciculatum group, G. mosseae, G. sp. UY1225 and G. hoi, as well as the Glomus and Scutellospora types of unknown taxonomic affiliation. Widespread taxa occur in both natural and anthropogenic (disturbed) habitats, and may show high local abundance. However, about 50% of taxa have been recorded from only a single site.
  • 5The current global analysis of AM fungal communities suggests that soil micro-organisms may exhibit different distribution patterns, resulting in a high variability of taxon richness and composition between particular ecosystems.