VA-Mycorrhizal influence on intra- and interspecific neighbor interactions among co-occurring prairie grasses

TitleVA-Mycorrhizal influence on intra- and interspecific neighbor interactions among co-occurring prairie grasses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsHartnett, DC, Hetrick, BAD, Wilson, GT, Gibson, DJ
JournalJournal of Ecology
Pagination787 -795
Accession NumberKNZ00405

1 A strongly obligately mycorrhiza-dependent grass, Andropogon gerardii, and a less dependent species, Elymus canadensis, were grown in intra- and interspecific combination in a target-neighbour experiment with and without mycorrhizal fungi to examine their influence on competition. 2 Mycorrhizal fungi significantly influenced the competitive effects and responses of both plant species. Strong competitive effects of Andropogon disappeared in the absence of mycorrhizas indicating that its competitive dominance in tallgrass prairie is highly dependent upon its mycorrhizal associations. The influence of mycorrhizal fungi on Andropogon responses to neighbours decreased with increasing neighbour density indicating reduced host plant benefit from mycorrhizas under crowded conditions. 3 Effects of mycorrhizas on competition were generally smaller for the less mycorrhiza-dependent Elymus. Elymus effects on target plants were not strongly affected by mycorrhizas. Elymus target plants in competition with Andropogon neighbours performed better when nonmycorrhizal, due to the lack of significant competitive suppression by Andropogon in the absence of mycorrhizas. The influence of mycorrhizal fungi on Elymus responses to Andropogon neighbours increased with increasing neighbour density. Neither mycorrhizas nor phosphorus fertilization had a significant effect on intraspecific competition among Elymus. 4 Patterns of tiller production by target plants were similar to patterns in their total dry weight, indicating that competitive and mycorrhizal effects on target plant size were primarily a result of effects on tiller numbers rather than individual tiller size. 5 The results show that mycorrhizal symbiosis can strongly influence the patterns and intensity of both intraspecific density effects and interspecific competition between co-occurring prairie grasses and that the degree of host-plant benefit derived from mycorrhizas is density dependent.