The best for the guest: high Andean nurse cushions of Azorella madreporica enhance arbuscular mycorrhizal status in associated plant species
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Casanova-Katny, M.A., Torres-Mellado, G.A., Palfner, G. et al. Mycorrhiza (2011) 21: 613. doi:10.1007/s00572-011-0367-1
- 405 Downloads
Positive interactions between cushion plant and associated plants species in the high Andes of central Chile should also include the effects of fungal root symbionts. We hypothesized that higher colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi exists in cushion-associated (nursling) plants compared with conspecific individuals growing on bare ground. We assessed the AM status of Andean plants at two sites at different altitudes (3,200 and 3,600 m a.s.l.) in 23 species, particularly in cushions of Azorella madreporica and five associated plants; additionally, AM fungal spores were retrieved from soil outside and beneath cushions. 18 of the 23 examined plant species presented diagnostic structures of arbuscular mycorrhiza; most of them were also colonized by dark-septate endophytes. Mycorrhization of A. madreporica cushions showed differences between both sites (68% and 32%, respectively). In the native species Hordeum comosum, Nastanthus agglomeratus, and Phacelia secunda associated to A. madreporica, mycorrhization was six times higher than in the same species growing dispersed on bare ground at 3,600 m a.s.l., but mycorrhiza development was less cushion dependent in the alien plants Cerastium arvense and Taraxacum officinale at both sites. The ratio of AM fungal spores beneath versus outside cushions was also 6:1. The common and abundant presence of AM in cushion communities at high altitudes emphasizes the importance of the fungal root symbionts in such situations where plant species benefit from the microclimatic conditions generated by the cushion and also from well-developed mycorrhizal networks.