• arbuscular mycorrhizas;
  • ectomycorrhizas;
  • Ian Dickie;
  • Maarja Öpik;
  • mycorrhizas;
  • New Phytologist ;
  • New Phytologist symposia

Nearly all families of land plants form root symbiotic organs, termed mycorrhizas, with soil fungi belonging to all the main fungal phyla; namely Glomeromycota, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Following their emergence in the Palaeozoic, plants associated with mycorrhizal fungi (Wang et al., 2010), and their adaptation to the various land biomes was accompanied, if not allowed, by a diversification in the mycorrhizal association (Selosse & Le Tacon, 1998; Brundrett, 2002). Mycorrhizas perform vital functions in the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles that are fundamental to sustainable plant productivity and the importance of this symbiosis in controlling plant nutrient status and growth is now well established (Read & Perez-Moreno, 2003).

In this Editorial we highlight some of the innovative mycorrhizal research published in the journal and look to future challenges that lie ahead in the vraie histoire d'amour (true love story) linking New Phytologist and mycorrhizal research. In the last century, New Phytologist hosted Harley's and Mosse's seminal papers on ectomycorrhizas and arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM), and thereafter a strong association between the journal and the mycorrhizal community has developed. Since 2003, over 550 articles have been published with ‘*mycorrhiza*’ in their title, keyword or abstracts, i.e., > 13% of the total number of published papers over this period. But there is more than number. Of particular interest is the high diversity of approaches and disciplines covering mycorrhizal associations in the journal, ranging from cellular or molecular interactions and plant physiology, to populations and communities, or to palaeontology and global scale ecology, providing our readership with an integrated view of this important plant symbiosis. The excellent quality of the submissions received by the journal is supported by their acceptance rate, which remained stable over the 2008–2013 period, and an unofficial 5-yr Impact Factor (as derived from citation analysis at the time of writing) that reaches 9.2 for mycorrhizal papers in 2012, confirming a tradition of high-quality mycorrhizal research in the journal.

Indeed, it is clear that mycorrhizal research contributes greatly to the recent success of the journal; the most widely cited and influential article in recent decades being a series of technical reports dealing with AM symbiosis (Giovannetti & Mosse, 1980 (2294 cites at the time of writing); Bécard & Fortin, 1988 (392 cites); McGonigle et al., 1990 (1036 cites)) and the review papers by Johnson et al. (1997(551 cites)), Read & Perez-Moreno (2003 (386 cites)), Brundrett (2002 (323 cites)) and Garbaye (1994 (314 cites)), which discuss various aspects of the ecology and evolution of mycorrhizal symbioses. Today, with the advent of new tools and techniques, the possibility of integration across a wide range of disciplines, from genomics to molecular ecology and field ecology, is becoming a reality that is much encouraged by New Phytologist. Amongst the most cited papers in the field published since 2009 are those from Buée et al. (2009 (167 cites at the time of writing)), Öpik et al. (2009 (105 cites)), and Tedersoo et al. (2010 (93 cites)) describing the first use of high-throughput next-generation sequencing for surveying mycorrhizal fungal communities.

New Phytologist also accompanied mycorrhizal researchers as their community entered into the genome area, with special issues devoted to the two first published genomes of ectomycorrhizal fungi, Laccaria bicolor (Martin & Selosse, 2008) and Tuber melanosporum (Martin, 2011). A recent workshop organized by the journal aimed its sights on ‘Bridging mycorrhizal genomics, metagenomics and forest ecology’ (Nancy, France, 15–16 November 2012), and enhanced discussions on how fungal genomics can contribute to the knowledge of mycorrhizal associations, and more generally to ecosystem functioning. Marmeisse et al. (2013) recently summarized in the journal the major conclusions of this workshop and the future directions for research based on fungal genomics. Let us also mention the Virtual Special Issue (one of a series of online-only collections assembling related articles from various issues of New Phytologist to promote a field of research) on mycoheterotrophy, celebrating the journal's outstanding contribution to the description of mycorrhizal plants that reverse the nutrient flow and gain carbon from their mycorrhizal fungi (Selosse & Cameron, 2010).

The active promotion of mycorrhizal research by New Phytologist goes beyond the publication of papers. The journal has supported the International Congress on Mycorrhizae (ICOM), including the recent 7th ICOM (New Delhi, India, 6–11 January 2013), which was reported in the journal by Martinez-Garcia et al. (2013). At each ICOM, the journal, together with the International Mycorrhiza Society, awards the New Phytologist Harley Medal to a graduate student who has presented a paper ‘which best emulates the rigorous approaches to mycorrhizal research’. Moreover, mycorrhizal models are under focus in many New Phytologist symposia (for symposia programmes and abstracts, see Examples include the 21st Symposium on the ‘Ecology of ectomycorrhizal fungi ’ which was held in 2008, the 22nd Symposium in 2009 (‘Effectors in plant–microbe interactions’; Martin, 2010) where many mycorrhizal papers were presented, and the 31st Symposium which was held in 2013 (‘Orchid symbioses: models for evolutionary ecology’). Mycorrhizas will be among the interactions to be debated at the forthcoming 32nd Symposium on ‘Plant interactions with other organisms’ (20–22 November 2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina), and are the central focus of the 33rd Symposium on ‘Networks of power and influence: ecology and evolution of symbioses between plants and mycorrhizal fungi’ (14–16 May 2014, Zürich, Switzerland). The 33rd Symposium will bring together a wide range of scientists from different disciplines working on mycorrhizal fungi and plant–microbe interactions. It aims to cover the advances in mycorrhizal ecology in the last decade, and to highlight new research areas and big questions for future researches. We are happy to invite you to join us in Zürich.

Our Editorial Board has reached an important point in terms of mycorrhizal sciences, with the retirements of two long-standing and influential Editors, Ian Alexander (University of Aberdeen, UK) and Alastair Fitter (University of York, UK). They respectively contributed since 1990 and 1989 to the Editorial Board, and in the name of New Phytologist, we warmly acknowledge their contribution towards bringing the journal to its current leading position in plant sciences. Indeed, many readers will know Ian and Alastair for their research on mycorrhizas, including key papers published in New Phytologist, which greatly contributed to our current view of the diversity and role in plant nutrition of mycorrhizal associations, with a focus on ectomycorrhizas for Ian (Grelet et al., 2009; Pickles et al., 2010) and on AM for Alastair (Leigh et al., 2009; Dumbrell et al., 2011). Ian and Alastair were also much appreciated by authors for their tactful editorial comments, adding value and clarity to the reviewed papers. Although we will never be able to fully replace their expertise and comprehensive knowledge of mycorrhizal symbiosis, the New Phytologist Trust has appointed new Editors with similarly strong scientific backgrounds and outstanding contributions to mycorrhizal research, to join the Editorial Board to promote excellence in plant sciences.

The integration of mycorrhizal functioning into ecosystem ecology has been a long-standing interest of Ian Dickie, who joined the Editorial Board in 2012. Ian has recently taken on the role of Professor of Invasion Ecology in the Bio-Protection Research Centre of Lincoln University, New Zealand, having spent the previous 8 yr as a mycorrhizal ecologist with Landcare Research (New Zealand). One major theme of Ian's research has been understanding ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity in ecosystems, including the application of molecular and statistical tools to measure this diversity (Dickie et al., 2002; Dickie, 2010). Most recently, Ian has been applying this interest to understand long-term development of mycorrhizal communities during ecosystem development and retrogression, linking plants, fungi, and soil biogeochemistry (Dickie et al., 2013). Another major theme of Ian's research has been a focus on the role of mycorrhiza in plant–plant interactions, including invasive species (Dickie et al., 2010). Ian's expertise builds upon the strengths of the journal in species-to-ecosystem scale processes involving plant–fungal interactions, as well as the application of molecular techniques to fungal communities.

The use of molecular approaches to inform the ecology and biogeography of AM symbioses has been a hallmark of Maarja Öpik's research programmes, and we are pleased to announce her appointment to the Editorial Board from September 2013. Maarja is a Senior Research Fellow in plant ecology, and has been employed at the University of Tartu (Estonia) since 2002. Her teaching expertise encompasses mycology, mycorrhizas and plant ecology, and her group has contributed much to the understanding of the ecology and evolution of AM symbioses, especially focusing on the diversity and structure of AM fungal communities. She has sampled AM fungi all over the world, and thanks to molecular methods, such as next generation sequencing, she has obtained cultivation-independent descriptions of AM fungal communities. Maarja successfully contributed to the investigation of the factors shaping AM fungal diversity, such as biogeography, host diversity and ecological traits, or timing in the growing season (Öpik et al., 2009, 2013; Davison et al., 2011). One of her major contributions to mycorrhizal research is the online database MaarjAM (, a continuously growing resource reporting the global and ecosystemic distribution of AM fungi (Öpik et al., 2010).

By joining the Editorial Board, Ian and Maarja will contribute to the next steps in the mycorrhizal love affair of New Phytologist. Especially, Ian and Maarja will further support recent trends in mycorrhizal ecology researches published by the journal: a strong link to field and molecular ecology, a global, biogeographic view of mycorrhizas, and most importantly, a relevance for plant ecology and ecophysiology. Welcome Ian and Maarja!

Lastly, as Editors of many of the mycorrhizal papers submitted to New Phytologist, we would like to acknowledge the kind efforts of our mycorrhizal community in reviewing the papers submitted to the journal. Their detailed and insightful reviews are very much appreciated and help the authors to improve their studies and their manuscripts. Our reviewers are a key component of the journal's quality, and facilitate the improvement of papers, even in cases of rejection. We thank them for assisting the New Phytologist in its vraie histoire d'amour with the mycorrhizal community. This mutualistic interaction has strong roots, strong vitality, and the journal will carefully work to support it in the future.


  1. Top of page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. References

Research in F.M.'s laboratory is supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR) through the Laboratory of Excellence ARBRE (ANR-2011-LABXARBRE-01) and the US Department of Energy – Oak Ridge National Laboratory Scientific Focus Area for Genomics Foundational Sciences (Project Plant–Microbe Interfaces). M-A.S.'s research is supported by the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. M-A.S. and F.M. thank Sarah Lennon, Ian Dickie and Maarja Öpik for their comments on this Editorial.


  1. Top of page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. References