Ectomycorrhizal mediation of competition between coniferous tree species

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To test the effect of ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) on interactions between host plants, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco and Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex. Laws., seedlings were grown in replacement series in pasteurized soil with (a) no EMF added, (A) two EMF species added - Rhizopogon vinicolor Smith (specific to Douglas-fir) and R. ochraceorubens Smith (specific to pine), and (c) tour EMF species added - the two Rhizopogon species plus two host generalists, Laccaria laccata (Scop, ex Fr.) Bk. & Br, and Hebeloma crustuliniforme (Bull.) Quel. A replacement series in unpasteurized forest soil also was included. Seedlings without added EMF were colonized by the greenhouse contaminant, Thelephora terrestris. Without added EMF (but with T. terrestris), the tree species mutually inhibited one another, producing Relative Yield Totals significantly < 1; with EMF added, mutual inhibition disappeared. With four EMF species added, Pseudotsuga menziesii seedlings were significantly larger in mixture than in monoculture, with no corresponding decrease in the size of Pinus ponderoso seedlings; this was due solely to seedlings with L. laccata, which apparently enhanced nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) uptake by Pseudotsuga menziesii at the expense of luxury consumption by Pinus ponderosa. Graphical analysis suggested that better growth of Pseudotosuga menziesii in mixture with EMF added was related to improved P nitrogen. Both N and P nutrition of Pinus ponderosa was better in mixture with two than no EMF species added; there was no clear nutrient effect with four EMF species added. Results indicate that EMF can reduce competition between plant species and perhaps increase overall community P uptake. However, patterns were specific to both EMF and tree species and were quite different in unpasteurized soils. Hence generalizations about the effects of EMF on plant-plant interactions must be made cautiously.

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