- • Few studies have examined how below-ground interactions among plants affect the abundance and community composition of symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.
- • Here, we combined observations during drought with a removal experiment to examine the effects of below-ground interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) shrubs on the growth of pinyon pines (Pinus edulis), and the abundance and community composition of their ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi.
- • Shrub density was negatively correlated with pinyon above- and below-ground growth and explained 75% of the variation in EM colonization. Consistent with competitive release, pinyon fine-root biomass, shoot length and needle length increased with shrub removal. EM colonization also doubled following shrub removal. EM communities did not respond to shrub removal, perhaps because of their strikingly low diversity.
- • These results suggest that below-ground competition with AM shrubs negatively impacted both pinyons and EM fungi. Similar competitive effects may be observed in other ecosystems given that drought frequency and severity are predicted to increase for many land interiors.