- • Although arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are ubiquitous symbionts of plants, the mutualism has rarely been tested in nature.
- • In experiments designed to explore the ecological relevance of associations between different fungal and plant species in a natural environment, plant species were infected with different species of fungi and grown in separate trials in the laboratory and a North Carolina (USA) field.
- • The benefits to plants varied dramatically as plant species were grown with different species of AM fungi. Effects of mycorrhizal fungi in nature were generally correlated to effects in the growth chamber, suggesting that laboratory data do reflect dynamics between plants and AM fungi in the field. Initial size at transplant and experimental block were also significant predictors of plant growth in the field. Correlation statistics between laboratory and field data were weaker when analyses involved plant species less responsive to infection by any AM fungus, suggesting that the response of a species to inoculation is a good predictor of its sensitivity to specific AM fungi in the field.
- • AM fungal identity appears to influence the growth and reproduction of plants in the field.