Marschner Review

Plant and Soil

, Volume 300, Issue 1, pp 9-20

First online:

Mycorrhizal responses to biochar in soil – concepts and mechanisms

  • Daniel D. WarnockAffiliated withMicrobial Ecology Program, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana
  • , Johannes LehmannAffiliated withDepartment of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University
  • , Thomas W. KuyperAffiliated withDepartment of Soil Quality, Wageningen University
  • , Matthias C. RilligAffiliated withMicrobial Ecology Program, Division of Biological Sciences, University of MontanaInstitut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin Email author 

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Experiments suggest that biomass-derived black carbon (biochar) affects microbial populations and soil biogeochemistry. Both biochar and mycorrhizal associations, ubiquitous symbioses in terrestrial ecosystems, are potentially important in various ecosystem services provided by soils, contributing to sustainable plant production, ecosystem restoration, and soil carbon sequestration and hence mitigation of global climate change. As both biochar and mycorrhizal associations are subject to management, understanding and exploiting interactions between them could be advantageous. Here we focus on biochar effects on mycorrhizal associations. After reviewing the experimental evidence for such effects, we critically examine hypotheses pertaining to four mechanisms by which biochar could influence mycorrhizal abundance and/or functioning. These mechanisms are (in decreasing order of currently available evidence supporting them): (a) alteration of soil physico-chemical properties; (b) indirect effects on mycorrhizae through effects on other soil microbes; (c) plant–fungus signaling interference and detoxification of allelochemicals on biochar; and (d) provision of refugia from fungal grazers. We provide a roadmap for research aimed at testing these mechanistic hypotheses.


Biochar Arbuscular mycorrhiza Ectomycorrhiza Carbon storage Restoration Terra preta