Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #294031

Title: More closely related plants have more distinct mycorrhizal communities

item Reinhart, Kurt
item ANACKER, BRIAN - University Of California

Submitted to: AoB Plants
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/3/2014
Publication Date: 8/27/2014
Citation: Reinhart, K.O., Anacker, B.L. 2014. More closely related plants have more distinct mycorrhizal communities. AoB Plants. 6.

Interpretive Summary: • Problem- We know little about the associational patterns between plant species of the Northern Great Plains and root fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi [AMF]) which may affect plant production, drought tolerance, and resistance to pathogens. An additional unknown is the extent that AMF are necessary for the establishment of plants during restoration and impacts of land-use management and weeds on AMF. • Accomplishment- This study determined that dominant plant species of mixed-grass prairie often associated with two or more AMF species per site, sites vary in their AMF compositions, and individual plant species vary in whether they share AMF with other plant species or form relatively distinct associations. • Theoretical implications- Plants exhibited cases of shared and divergent associations with AMF which have many potential implications for the structure and function of grasslands/rangelands. • Management implications- This study reveals that plants growing in intact grasslands are associated with a diversity of AMF. The implications of this diversity and AMF in general remain largely unknown for this region but have numerous possible implications. Related research is forthcoming that use this information for reference grassland sites to compare with areas dominated by weedy species and a species of high restoration value.

Technical Abstract: 1. Neighboring plants are known to vary from having similar to dissimilar arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) communities. One possibility is that closely related plants have more similar AMF communities than more distantly related plants, an indication of phylogenetic signal in host use. Here, we determine the structure of AMF communities among dominant grassland plants at three sites in the Northern Great Plains to test whether pairwise phylogenetic distance among plant speciess is correlated with pairwise AMF community dissimilarity. 2. For eight dominant and co-occurring grassland plant species, we reconstructed a phylogeny based on DNA data and characterized the AMF communities of their roots at each site. 3. Community analyses revealed that AMF communities varied among sites and among plant species at two of three sites. Contrary to expectations for phylogenetic niche conservatism, we found that more closely related plants had more distinct AMF communities despite their having similar phenologies. 4. Synthesis Associations with unique AMF communities may enhance the functional complementarity of related species and promote their coexistence.