Plant neighborhood control of arbuscular mycorrhizal community composition


Author for correspondence:
Christine V. Hawkes
Tel:+1 512 471 6049


  • • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are important root symbionts that can provide benefits to plant hosts, yet we understand little about how neighboring hosts in a plant community contribute to the composition of the AMF community. We hypothesized that the composition of the plant neighborhood, including the identities of both host and neighbor, would alter AMF community composition.
  • • We tested this in a glasshouse experiment in which a native perennial grass (Nassella pulchra) and three annual grasses (Avena barbata, Bromus hordeaceaous and Vulpia microstachys) were grown in two neighborhoods: conspecific monocultures and heterospecific perennial–annual mixtures. To identify AMF taxa colonizing plant roots, we used a combination of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism and cloning.
  • • Both host and neighbor were important in structuring AMF communities. Unique AMF communities were associated with each plant host in monoculture. In heterospecific neighborhoods, the annual neighbors V. microstachys, A. barbata, and B. hordeaceus influenced N. pulchra AMF in different ways (synergistic, controlling, or neutral) and the reciprocal effect was not always symmetric.
  • • Our findings support a community approach to AMF studies, which can be used to increase our understanding of processes such as invasion and succession.