Links between tree species, symbiotic fungal diversity and ecosystem functioning in simplified tropical ecosystems


  • Catherine E. Lovelock,

    Corresponding author
    1. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA;
    2. School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia;
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  • John J. Ewel

    1. US Forest Service, Pacific South-West Research Station, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, 1151 Punchbowl Street Suite 323, Honolulu, HI 9683, USA
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Author for correspondence:Catherine Lovelock Tel: +61 73365 2304 Fax: +61 73365 4755 Email:


  • We studied the relationships among plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal diversity, and their effects on ecosystem function, in a series of replicate tropical forestry plots in the La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.
  • Forestry plots were 12 yr old and were either monocultures of three tree species, or polycultures of the tree species with two additional understory species. Relationships among the AM fungal spore community, host species, plant community diversity and ecosystem phosphorus-use efficiency (PUE) and net primary productivity (NPP) were assessed.
  • Analysis of the relative abundance of AM fungal spores found that host tree species had a significant effect on the AM fungal community, as did host plant community diversity (monocultures vs polycultures). The Shannon diversity index of the AM fungal spore community differed significantly among the three host tree species, but was not significantly different between monoculture and polyculture plots. Over all the plots, significant positive relationships were found between AM fungal diversity and ecosystem NPP, and between AM fungal community evenness and PUE. Relative abundance of two of the dominant AM fungal species also showed significant correlations with NPP and PUE.
  • We conclude that the AM fungal community composition in tropical forests is sensitive to host species, and provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that the diversity of AM fungi in tropical forests and ecosystem NPP covaries.