Mycorrhizal fungal identity and richness determine the diversity and productivity of a tallgrass prairie system

Keith M Vogelsang, Heather L Reynolds, James D Bever
New Phytologist 2006, 172 (3): 554-62
We investigated the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) species richness and composition on plant community productivity and diversity, and whether AMF mediate plant species coexistence by promoting niche differentiation in phosphorus use. Our experiment manipulated AMF species richness and identity across a range of P conditions in tallgrass prairie mesocosms. We showed that increasing AMF richness promoted plant diversity and productivity, but that this AMF richness effect was small relative to the effects of individual AMF species. We found little support for AMF-facilitated complementarity in P use. Rather, the AMF richness effect appeared to be caused by the inclusion of particular diversity- and productivity-promoting AMF (a sampling effect). Furthermore, the identity of the diversity-promoting fungi changed with P environment, as did the relationship between the diversity-promoting and productivity-promoting benefits of AMF. Our results suggest that plant diversity and productivity are more responsive to AMF identity than to AMF diversity per se, and that AMF identity and P environment can interact in complex ways to alter community-level properties.

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