Decline of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in northern hardwood forests exposed to chronic nitrogen additions


Author of correspondence: Linda T. A. van Diepen Tel: +1 906 482 6303, ext14 Fax: +1 906 482 6355 Email:


  • • Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are important below-ground carbon (C) sinks that can be sensitive to increased nitrogen (N) availability. The abundance of AM fungi (AMF) was estimated in maple (Acer spp.) fine roots following more than a decade of experimental additions of N designed to simulate chronic atmospheric N deposition.
  • • Abundance of AMF was measured by staining and ocular estimation, as well as by analyzing for the AMF indicator fatty acid 16:1ω5c in phospholipid (biomass indicator) and neutral lipid (lipid storage indicator) fractions.
  • • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal biomass, storage structures and lipid storage declined in response to N addition measured by both methods. This pattern was found when AM response was characterized as colonization intensity, on an areal basis and in proportion to maple above-ground biomass. The phospholipid fraction of the fatty acid 16:1ω5c was positively correlated with total AMF colonization and the neutral lipid fraction with vesicle colonization.
  • • Decreased AMF abundance with simulated N deposition suggests reduced C allocation to these fungi or a direct soil N-mediated decline. The fatty acid (phospholipid and neutral lipid fractions) 16:1ω5c was found to be a good indicator for AMF active biomass and stored energy, respectively.