Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in plant roots are not random assemblages


  • Editor: Petr Baldrian

John Davison, Department of Botany, University of Tartu, 40 Lai St., 51005 Tartu, Estonia. Tel./fax: +372 7376222; e-mail:


We investigated whether arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) communities in plant roots are random subsets of the local taxon pool or whether they reflect the action of certain community assembly rules. We studied AMF small subunit rRNA gene sequence groups in the roots of plant individuals belonging to 11 temperate forest understorey species. Empirical data were compared with null models assuming random association. Distinct fungal species pools were present in young and old successional forest. In both forest types, the richness of plant–AMF associations was lower than expected by chance, indicating a degree of partner selectivity. AMF communities were generally not characteristic of individual plant species, but those associated with ecological groups of plant species – habitat generalists and forest specialists – were nonrandom subsets of the available pool of fungal taxa and differed significantly from each other. Moreover, these AMF communities were the least distinctive in spring, but developed later in the season. Comparison with a global database showed that generalist plants tend to associate with generalist AMF. Thus, the habitat range of the host and a possible interaction with season played a role in the assembly of AMF communities in individual plant root systems.