Fire effects on mycorrhizal symbiosis and root system architecture in southern African savanna grasses

TitleFire effects on mycorrhizal symbiosis and root system architecture in southern African savanna grasses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsHartnett, DC, Potgieter, ALF, Wilson, GWT
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
Volume42
Pagination1 -10
Accession NumberKNZ00900
Keywordsfire, Grasses, mycorrhizas, root architecture, Savannas
Abstract

Mycorrhizal symbiosis is a key factor influencing aspects of grassland and savanna structure and functioning including plant growth, competition, population and community dynamics, and responses to fire and herbivory. This study assessed the effects of fire on mycorrhizal symbiosis and root system architecture (RSA) in South African savanna grasses. Eighteen grass species were sampled across contrasting fire frequency treatments in the Kruger National Park experimental burn plots. All eighteen species studied were highly colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Both mycorrhizal symbiosis and RSA were strongly affected by fire, with an increase in AMF colonization and a decrease in root branching and fine root development with decreasing fire frequency. Greater water limitation in frequently burned savanna may result in greater fine root development, thus reducing plant dependency on AMF for acquisition of soil resources. Reduced mycorrhizal colonization in frequently burned savanna may also be driven by higher phosphorus : nitrogen ratios, or indirect effects related to higher grazing intensities in frequently burned sites.

DOI10.1111/j.1365-2028.2004.00533.x