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Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi as support systems for seedling establishment in grassland


  • Marcel G. A. Van Der Heijden

    1. Department of Systems Ecology, Institute of Ecological Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Recruitment of new seedlings into the vegetation is essential for maintaining species rich plant communities. Hence it is of pivotal importance to understand factors determining seedling recruitment. Here it is tested whether arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) promote seedling recruitment in perennial grassland communities. Seeds of four plant species (two grasses and two forbs) were added to patches within 1-year old grassland microcosms that were inoculated with different AMF taxa or to control microcosms that were not inoculated. The seedlings grew larger and obtained more phosphorus when AMF were present. Moreover, the seedlings obtained different amounts of phosphorus in microcosms inoculated with different AMF taxa. The results indicate that AMF promote seedling establishment by integrating emerging seedlings into extensive hyphal networks and by supplying nutrients to the seedlings. AMF, thus, act as a symbiotic support system that promotes seedling establishment and reduces recruitment limitation in grassland.

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