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Mycorrhizal fungal communities along a soil age gradient in a plant biodiversity hotspot

Teste, F., Laliberté, E., Lambers, H., Dixon, K., Read, D. and Bunce, M. (2012) Mycorrhizal fungal communities along a soil age gradient in a plant biodiversity hotspot. In: Ecological Society of Australia, Annual Conference, 3 - 7 December, Melbourne, Australia.


Background/question/methods: In the absence of major disturbances over millions of years, soils become impoverished in nutrients, especially phosphorus. Mycorrhizal fungi are known to enhance phosphorus acquisition by plants, but there is evidence that this strategy becomes ineffective in extremely weathered soils, where non-symbiotic cluster-rooted plant species dominate. Along the Jurien Bay sand dune chronosequence in Western Australia we established permanent vegetation survey plots and fungal ingrowth cores to determine links between the aboveground community composition and diversity and the belowground fungal communities. We extensively sampled soil and roots from April to August to determine spore density of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and ectomycorrhizal (EM) colonisation. Also, using high-throughput DNA typing techniques (454 pyrosequencing) and fungal biomarkers, we started determining the composition and production of mycorrhizal fungal communities along this long-term soil age gradient in a global plant biodiversity hotspot.

Results/conclusions: Current results show that AM spore density decreased steadily from 90 000 spores m-³ in the young Quindalup dunes to 55 000 spores m-³ in the old Bassendean dunes. Mycorrhizal colonisation was generally low but peaked to 15.0% in the medium-aged Spearwood dunes and then dropped again to 9.1% in the Bassendean perhaps due to antagonistic effects of abundant cluster-root Proteaceae plants. However, the old Bassendean dunes harboured the greatest EM fungi richness and diversity. Mycorrhizal community composition and production is expected to follow similar trends. This research will deepen our understanding of the relevance of mycorrhizal diversity for plant nutrition and plant species coexistence.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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