Comparisons of Mycorrhizal Responsiveness with Field Soil and Commercial Inoculum for Six Native Montane Species and Bromus tectorum


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Reestablishing native perennial plants and reducing invasive species are pivotal for many ecological restoration projects. The interactions among plant species, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and soil P availability may be critical determinants of the success of native and non-native plants in restoration and species invasions. Here we assessed mycorrhizal responsiveness for three late-successional and three early-successional plant species native to Rocky Mountain National Park and for the non-native Downy brome, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) using field soil and commercial inoculum. Factorial greenhouse experiments were conducted to compare biomass of plant species with and without field soil and commercial inoculum treatments along a phosphorus (P) gradient, which ranged from ambient field levels to 12% of field levels, using dilutions of native soils. The two field soil inoculum treatments resulted in significant biomass differences for all species studied. Late-successional species responded positively to field inoculum, whereas early-successional species responded negatively. The two commercial inocula had low colonization rates (14 of 166 inoculated plants). The commercial inocula substrates had significant treatment effects on five of seven species included in the study in the apparent absence of mycorrhizal symbiosis. Soil P levels influenced mycorrhizal responsiveness in only one species, Smooth blue aster (Aster laevis L.). Our results show that, at least for the species studied here, locally collected field inoculum is the best choice for reestablishment of late-successional native plant species.