Plant demographic responses to mycorrhizal symbiosis in tallgrass prairie

TitlePlant demographic responses to mycorrhizal symbiosis in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsHartnett, DC, Samenus, RH, Fischer, LE, Hetrick, BAD
Pagination21 -26
Accession NumberKNZ00445
Keywordsfire, tallgrass prairie, VA mycorrhizas Plant demography

The effects of mycorrhizal symbiosis on seedling emergence, flowering and densities of several grasses and forbs were assessed in native tallgrass prairie and in sown garden populations at the Konza Prairie in northeastern Kansas. Mycorrhizal activity was experimentally suppressed with the fungicide benomyl. Flowering and stem densities of the cool-season grass, Dichanthelium oligosanthes, sedges (Carex spp.), and the forb Aster ericoides were higher in non-mycorrhizal (benomyl-treated) than in mycorrhizal plots and the magnitude of these differences was significantly affected by burning. Mycorrhizae significantly enhanced flowering of the warmseason grasses Andropogon gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans in burned prairie, but not in unburned sites. These patterns suggest that mycorrhizal effects on the dynamics of cool-season graminoid and forb populations are likely to be mediated indirectly through effects of the symbiosis on the competitive dominance of their neighbors. Seedling emergence rates of the cool-season C3 grasses Elymus canadensis and Koeleria cristata were significantly reduced in the benomyl-treated plots, whereas benomyl treatment had no significant effect on seedling emergence of the warm-season C4 grasses A. gerardii and Panicum virgatum. The forbs showed variable responses. Seedling emergence of Liatris aspera was greater under mycorrhizal conditions, but that of Dalea purpurea was unaffected by mycorrhizal treatment. These results show that effects of mycorrhizal symbiosis on the population dynamics of co-occurring prairie plants vary significantly both among species and among different life history stages within species. The results also indicate that mycorrhizas and fire interact to influence competitive interactions and demographic patterns of tallgrass prairie plant populations.