The gap between mycorrhizal science and application: existence, origins, and relevance during the United Nation's Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

Lisa M. Markovchick, Vanessa Carrasco-Denney, Jyotsna Sharma, José Ignacio Querejeta, Kara Skye Gibson, Randy Swaty, Derek A. Uhey, Abril Belgara-Andrew, Zsuzsi I. Kovacs, Nancy C. Johnson, Thomas G. Whitham, Catherine A. Gehring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


During the United Nation's Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, planting material shortages are constraining restoration, while climate change exacerbates the need for restoration and reduces recruitment. Concurrently, research shows that native mycorrhizal fungi (symbiotic with plant roots) appropriate to plant provenance and site conditions significantly accelerate restoration, support crucial ecosystem services, and provide natural climate solutions (sequestering carbon), and nature-based solutions for climate change (climate adaptation). We reviewed 130 management plans for natural areas in the United States to evaluate whether restoring native mycorrhizal communities has translated into implementation. Although management plans frequently discussed the ecosystem services mycorrhizal fungi provide, nearly one half (46%) viewed fungi solely as pathogens or ignored them altogether. Only 8% of plans mentioned mycorrhizal fungi. Only one plan mentioned that mycorrhizae were potentially helpful to natural regeneration, while one other mentioned utilizing soil as a restoration tool. Our examination of publicly available data and case studies suggests that relatively meager protections for fungi, limited research funding and resulting data, research difficulty, and limited access to mycology experts and training contribute to this gap between science and implementation. A database of literature showcasing mycorrhizal ecosystem services and benefits is provided to highlight when and why mycorrhizae should be considered in management, regeneration, and restoration. Three action items are recommended to safeguard native mycorrhizal fungal communities and accelerate restoration and regeneration. Ten implementation tips based in scientific literature are provided to clarify the need and methods for mycorrhizal restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13866
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2023


  • ecosystem services
  • land management
  • mycorrhiza
  • natural climate solutions
  • nature-based solutions
  • restoration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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