Saprotrophic capabilities as functional traits to study functional diversity and resilience of ectomycorrhizal community
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- Cullings, K. & Courty, PE. Oecologia (2009) 161: 661. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1434-6
In an accompanying editorial Dr Petr Baldrian made a case casting doubt on our recent work addressing the saprophytic potential of ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi. Dr Baldrian’s statements illustrate a very valid truth: the book is still very much open on this subject. The point he raised that the only logical reason for these fungi to be responding to high carbon demand or decreased host photosynthetic capacity by up-regulating enzymes is for the purpose of carbon acquisition is valid as well. Despite this, he makes the case that there is no compelling evidence that EM fungi exhibit saprophytic activity. The concept central to Dr Baldrian’s conclusion is that even though some EM fungi possess the genes necessary for saprophytic behaviour and may even express these genes, EM fungi do not inhabit a position in the soil column that provides access to usable substrate. In this paper we present both previously published and newly obtained data that demonstrate that this assumption is erroneous, and we present arguments that place the saprophytic potential of EM fungi within a broad ecological context.