Species richness of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi: associations with grassland plant richness and biomass



  • Although experiments show a positive association between vascular plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) species richness, evidence from natural ecosystems is scarce. Furthermore, there is little knowledge about how AMF richness varies with belowground plant richness and biomass.
  • We examined relationships among AMF richness, above- and belowground plant richness, and plant root and shoot biomass in a native North American grassland. Root-colonizing AMF richness and belowground plant richness were detected from the same bulk root samples by 454-sequencing of the AMF SSU rRNA and plant trnL genes.
  • In total we detected 63 AMF taxa. Plant richness was 1.5 times greater belowground than aboveground. AMF richness was significantly positively correlated with plant species richness, and more strongly with below- than aboveground plant richness. Belowground plant richness was positively correlated with belowground plant biomass and total plant biomass, whereas aboveground plant richness was positively correlated only with belowground plant biomass. By contrast, AMF richness was negatively correlated with belowground and total plant biomass.
  • Our results indicate that AMF richness and plant belowground richness are more strongly related with each other and with plant community biomass than with the plant aboveground richness measures that have been almost exclusively considered to date.