Effects of mycorrhizal fungi on tree seedling growth: quantifying the parasitism–mutualism transition along a light gradient

TitleEffects of mycorrhizal fungi on tree seedling growth: quantifying the parasitism–mutualism transition along a light gradient
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsIbáñez I, McCarthy-Neumann S
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume46
Issue1
Pagination48 - 57
Date Published01/2016
Abstract

Mycorrhizal fungi colonize tree seedlings shortly after germination, and the nature of this relationship (mutualistic to parasitic) has been reported to vary as a function of resources; however, this transition has rarely been quantified. Using a light gradient, we grew seedlings of eight tree species in soils that were cultivated by several co-existing species of trees. We used data on root mycorrhizal fungi to quantify colonization along the gradient of light. We then analyzed plant growth as a function of both the light gradient and the extent of mycorrhizal colonization. Mycorrhizal fungi colonization varied among species but was not correlated with the species' seed sizes or shade tolerances. Within a species, colonization varied among soil sources, but those differences followed neither the conspecific–heterospecific dichotomy, nor the soil host's arbuscular–ectomycorrhizal associations commonly reported. At high light levels, seedlings growth increased with increasing levels of colonization for seven species, and at low light levels, the effect of colonization was negative for five species. We also quantified the light threshold at which the plant – mycorrhizal fungi relationship shifted from neutral to positive (four species), from negative to neutral (one species), and from neutral to negative (one species), documenting differences among species that could exacerbate competitive interactions during recruitment.

DOI10.1139/cjfr-2015-0327