Host plant species effects on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in tallgrass prairie

TitleHost plant species effects on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsEom, AH, Hartnett, DC, Wilson, GT
Pagination435 -444
Accession NumberKNZ00732
KeywordsArbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, fungal diversity, Grasslands, Host specificity, Soil communities

Symbiotic associations between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are ubiquitous in many herbaceous plant communities and can have large effects on these communities and ecosystem processes. The extent of species-specificity between these plant and fungal symbionts in nature is poorly known, yet reciprocal effects of the composition of plant and soil microbe communities is an important assumption of recent theoretical models of plant community structure. In grassland ecosystems, host plant species may have an important role in determining development and sporulation of AM fungi and patterns of fungal species composition and diversity. In this study, the effects of five different host plant species [Poa pratensis L., Sporobolus heterolepis (A. Gray) A. Gray, Panicum virgatum L., Baptisia bracteata Muhl. ex Ell., Solidago missouriensis Nutt.] on spore communities of AM fungi in tallgrass prairie were examined. Spore abundances and species composition of fungal communities of soil samples collected from patches within tallgrass prairie were significantly influenced by the host plant species that dominated the patch. The AM fungal spore community associated with B. bracteata showed the highest species diversity and the fungi associated with Pa. virgatum showed the lowest diversity. Results from sorghum trap cultures using soil collected from under different host plant species showed differential sporulations of AM fungal species. In addition, a greenhouse study was conducted in which different host plant species were grown in similar tallgrass prairie soil. After 4 months of growth, AM fungal species composition was significantly different beneath each host species. These results strongly suggest that AM fungi show some degree of host-specificity and are not randomly distributed in tallgrass prairie. The demonstration that host plant species composition influences AM fungal species composition provides support for current feedback models predicting strong regulatory effects of soil communities on plant community structure. Differential responses of AM fungi to host plant species may also play an important role in the regulation of species composition and diversity in AM fungal communities.