No globally consistent effect of ectomycorrhizal status on foliar traits


Author for correspondence:

Nina Koele

Tel: +64 3 321 9700



  • The concept that ectomycorrhizal plants have a particular foliar trait suite characterized by low foliar nutrients and high leaf mass per unit area (LMA) is widely accepted, but whether this trait suite can be generalized to all ectomycorrhizal clades is unclear.
  • We identified 19 evolutionary clades of ectomycorrhizal plants and used a global leaf traits dataset comprising 11 466 samples across c. 3000 species to test whether there were consistent shifts in leaf nutrients or LMA with the evolution of ectomycorrhiza.
  • There were no consistent effects of ectomycorrhizal status on foliar nutrients or LMA in the 17 ectomycorrhizal/non-ectomycorrhizal pairs for which we had sufficient data, with some ectomycorrhizal groups having higher and other groups lower nutrient status than non-ectomycorrhizal contrasts. Controlling for the woodiness of host species did not alter the results.
  • Our findings suggest that the concepts of ectomycorrhizal plant trait suites should be re-examined to ensure that they are broadly reflective of mycorrhizal status across all evolutionary clades, rather than reflecting the traits of a few commonly studied groups, such as the Pinaceae and Fagales.