Plant species differ in early seedling growth and tissue nutrient responses to arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal fungi

Ellen K. Holste, Richard K. Kobe, Catherine A. Gehring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Experiments with plant species that can host both arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) are important to separating the roles of fungal type and plant species and understanding the influence of the types of symbioses on plant growth and nutrient acquisition. We examined the effects of mycorrhizal fungal type on the growth and tissue nutrient content of two tree species (Eucalyptus grandis and Quercus costaricensis) grown under four nutrient treatments (combinations of low versus high nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) with different N:P ratios) in the greenhouse. Trees were inoculated with unidentified field mixtures of AMF or EMF species cultivated on root fragments of AMF- or EMF-specific bait plants. In E. grandis, inoculation with both AMF and EMF positively affected belowground plant dry weight and negatively affected aboveground dry weight, while only inoculation with AMF increased tissue nutrient content. Conversely, Q. costaricensis dry weight and nutrient content did not differ significantly among inoculation treatments, potentially due to its dependence on cotyledon reserves for growth. Mineral nutrition of both tree species differed with the ratio of N to P applied while growth did not. Our results demonstrate that both tree species’ characteristics and the soil nutrient environment can affect how AMF and EMF interact with their host plants. This research highlights the importance of mycorrhizal fungal-tree-soil interactions during early seedling growth and suggests that differences between AMF and EMF associations may be crucial to understanding forest ecosystem functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-223
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Arbuscular mycorrhiza
  • Dual colonization
  • Ectomycorrhiza
  • Plant growth
  • Soil nutrients
  • Tissue nutrient content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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