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Competition and facilitation in synthetic communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi



Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) species cocolonizing the same host plant are still little understood in spite of major ecological significance of mycorrhizal symbiosis and widespread occurrence of these fungi in communities rather than alone. Furthermore, shifting the composition of AMF communities has demonstrated consequences for the provision of symbiotic benefits to the host as well as for the qualities of ecosystem services. Therefore, here we addressed the nature and strength of interactions between three different AMF species in all possible two-species combinations on a gradient of inoculation densities. Fungal communities were established in pots with Medicago truncatula plants, and their composition was assessed with taxon-specific real-time PCR markers. Nature of interactions between the fungi was varying from competition to facilitation and was influenced by both the identity and relative abundance of the coinoculated fungi. Plants coinoculated with Claroideoglomus and Rhizophagus grew bigger and contained more phosphorus than with any of these two fungi separately, although these fungi obviously competed for root colonization. On the other hand, plants coinoculated with Gigaspora and Rhizophagus, which facilitated each other's root colonization, grew smaller than with any of these fungi separately. Our results point to as yet little understood complexity of interactions in plant-associated symbiotic fungal communities, which, depending on their composition, can induce significant changes in plant host growth and/or phosphorus acquisition in either direction.

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