, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 376-391

Mycorrhizas in ecosystems

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Summary

The results of analyses of the distribution, structure and function of ericoid, ecto and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas are used to challenge the conventional view, which was based largely upon studies of isolated plants and excised plant roots under controlled conditions, that the symbiosis is primarily involved in the capture of phosphate ions. In nature, each mycorrhizal type is associated with an ecosystem and soil environment with distinctive characteristics in which selection has favoured the development of a particular range of attributes. These attributes are evaluated and their importance for the individual plant and for the ecosystems in which they occur is assessed. It is concluded that knowledge of the full range of functions of each mycorrhizal type is essential for an understanding of the distribution and dynamics of the ecosystem in which it predominates.