, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 741-749
Date: 21 Nov 2006

Interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and Collembola: effects on root structure of competing plant species

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Mycorrhizal fungi influence plant nutrition and therefore likely modify competition between plants. By affecting mycorrhiza formation and nutrient availability of plants, Collembola may influence competitive interactions of plant roots. We investigated the effect of Collembola (Protaphorura fimata Gisin), a mycorrhizal fungus (Glomus intraradices Schenck and Smith), and their interaction on plant growth and root structure of two plant species, Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass) and Trifolium repens L. (white clover). In a laboratory experiment, two individuals of each plant species were grown either in monoculture or in competition to the respective other plant species. Overall, L. perenne built up more biomass than T. repens. The clover competed poorly with grass, whereas the L. perenne grew less in presence of conspecifics. In particular, presence of conspecifics in the grass and presence of grass in clover reduced shoot and root biomass, root length, number of root tips, and root volume. Collembola reduced shoot biomass in L. perenne, enhanced root length and number of root tips, but reduced root diameter and volume. The effects of Collembola on T. repens were less pronounced, but Collembola enhanced root length and number of root tips. In contrast to our hypothesis, changes in plant biomass and root structure in the presence of Collembola were not associated with a reduction in mycorrhizal formation. Presumably, Collembola affected root structure via changes in the amount of nutrients available and their spatial distribution.