Environmental and genetic effects on the formation of ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal associations in cottonwoods

Catherine A. Gehring, Rebecca C. Mueller, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Although both environment and genetics have been shown to affect the mycorrhizal colonization of host plants, the impacts of these factors on hosts that can be dually colonized by both ectomycorrhizal (EM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are less understood. We examined the influence of environment and host crosstype on the EM and AM colonization of cottonwoods (Populus angustifolia and natural hybrids) by comparing levels of colonization of trees growing in common gardens that differed in elevation and soil type. We also conducted a supplemental watering experiment to determine the influence of soil moisture on AM and EM colonization. Three patterns emerged. First, garden location had a significant impact on mycorrhizal colonization, such that EM colonization was 30% higher and AM colonization was 85% lower in the higher elevation garden than the lower elevation garden. Second, crosstype affected total (EM + AM) colonization, but did not affect EM or AM colonization. Similarly, a significant garden x crosstype interaction was found for total colonization, but not for EM or AM colonization. Third, experimental watering resulted in 33% higher EM colonization and 45% lower AM colonization, demonstrating that soil moisture was a major driver of the mycorrhizal differences observed between the gardens. We conclude that environment, particularly soil moisture, has a larger influence on colonization by AM versus EM fungi than host genetics, and suggest that environmental stress may be a major determinant of mycorrhizal colonization in dually colonized host plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Arbuscular mycorrhiza
  • Crosstype
  • Ectomycorrhiza
  • Populus
  • Soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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