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The ‘chicken or the egg’: which comes first, forest tree decline or loss of mycorrhizae?

Sapsford, S.J., Paap, T., Hardy, G.E.St.J. and Burgess, T.I.ORCID: 0000-0002-7962-219X (2017) The ‘chicken or the egg’: which comes first, forest tree decline or loss of mycorrhizae? Plant Ecology, 218 (9). pp. 1093-1106.

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Forest trees are experiencing massive declines globally caused by a multitude of stressors, both abiotic (pollution, fragmentation and climate change) and biotic (fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects). Mycorrhizal fungi aid plants in the requisition of nutrients through their mutualistic relationship with plant roots and are integral to tree health. Stresses affecting tree health will also influence mycorrhizal fungi directly or indirectly, and thus alter the pathways responsible for nutrient absorption. Such an intimate association is a true chicken or egg quandary; do external stressors cause a loss of mycorrhizae which leads to tree decline, does tree decline result in a loss of mycorrhizae, or is it a combination of both? A review of literature has identified six stressors known to contribute to tree decline and to impact directly on mycorrhizae; global climate change, pesticides, heavy metals, excess fertilizer, pathogens and habitat fragmentation. A few review papers have highlighted the link; however, what is missing is irrefutable empirical research. This review documents the known direct impacts of the six stressors on mycorrhizal communities and places this in the context of decline syndromes in long-lived forest trees. We also discuss methodologies available to identify fungi and future research needed to unravel the complex relationships between forest tree declines and their associated mycorrhizal fungi.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Copyright: © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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