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Keywords:

  • altitude;
  • Andean grasses;
  • arbuscular mycorrhizas;
  • arid environment;
  • C3/C4 grasses;
  • inter- and intraspecific colonization

Abstract

The relationships of altitude, host life cycle (annual or perennial) and photosynthetic pathway (C3 or C4) with arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) root colonization were analysed in 35 species of Andean grasses. The study area is located in north-western Argentina along altitudinal sites within the Puna biogeographical region. Twenty-one sites from 3320 to 4314 m were sampled. Thirty-five grasses were collected, and the AM root colonization was quantified. We used multivariate analyses to test emerging patterns in these species by considering the plant traits and variables of AM colonization. Pearson's correlations were carried out to evaluate the specific relationships between some variables. Most grasses were associated with AM, but the colonization percentages were low in both C3 and C4 grasses. Nevertheless, the AM root colonization clearly decreased as the altitude increased. This distinctive pattern among different species was also observed between some of the populations of the same species sampled throughout the sites. An inverse relationship between altitude and AM colonization was found in this Southern Hemisphere Andean system. The effect of altitude on AM colonization seems to be more related to the grasses' photosynthetic pathway than to life cycles. This study represents the first report for this biogeographical region.