Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in roots and soil respond differently to biotic and abiotic factors in the Serengeti

Bo Maxwell Stevens, Jeffrey Ryan Propster, Maarja Öpik, Gail W.T. Wilson, Sara Lynne Alloway, Emilian Mayemba, Nancy Collins Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This study explores the relationships of AM fungal abundance and diversity with biotic (host plant, ungulate grazing) and abiotic (soil properties, precipitation) factors in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Soil and root samples were collected from grazed and ungrazed plots at seven sites across steep soil fertility and precipitation gradients. AM fungal abundance in the soil was estimated from the density of spores and the concentration of a fatty acid biomarker. Diversity of AM fungi in roots and soils was measured using DNA sequencing and spore identification. AM fungal abundance in soil decreased with grazing and precipitation and increased with soil phosphorus. The community composition of AM fungal DNA in roots and soils differed. Root samples had more AM fungal indicator species associated with biotic factors (host plant species and grazing), and soil samples had more indicator species associated with particular sample sites. These findings suggest that regional edaphic conditions shape the site-level species pool from which plant species actively select root-colonizing fungal assemblages modified by grazing. Combining multiple measurements of AM fungal abundance and community composition provides the most informed assessment of the structure of mycorrhizal fungal communities in natural ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-95
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Digitaria macroblephara
  • Environmental gradients
  • Fungal community
  • Grassland
  • Spores
  • Themeda triandra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in roots and soil respond differently to biotic and abiotic factors in the Serengeti'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this