Marschner Review

Plant and Soil

, Volume 367, Issue 1, pp 11-39

First online:

Mycorrhizas and mycorrhizal fungal communities throughout ecosystem development

  • Ian A. DickieAffiliated withLandcare Research Email author 
  • , Laura B. Martínez-GarcíaAffiliated withLandcare Research
  • , Nina KoeleAffiliated withLandcare Research
  • , G.-A. GreletAffiliated withLandcare ResearchInstitute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen
  • , Jason M. TylianakisAffiliated withBiological Sciences, University of Canterbury
  • , Duane A. PeltzerAffiliated withLandcare Research
  • , Sarah J. RichardsonAffiliated withLandcare Research

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Background and scope

Plant communities and underlying soils undergo substantial, coordinated shifts throughout ecosystem development. However, shifts in the composition and function of mycorrhizal fungi remain poorly understood, despite their role as a major interface between plants and soil. We synthesise evidence for shifts among mycorrhizal types (i.e., ectomycorrhizas, arbuscular and ericoid mycorrhizas) and in fungal communities within mycorrhizal types along long-term chronosequences that include retrogressive stages. These systems represent strong, predictable patterns of increasing, then declining soil fertility during ecosystem development, and are associated with coordinated changes in plant and fungal functional traits and ecological processes.


Mycorrhizal types do not demonstrate consistent shifts through ecosystem development. Rather, most mycorrhizal types can dominate at any stage of ecosystem development, driven by biogeography (i.e., availability of mycorrhizal host species), plant community assembly, climate and other factors. In contrast to coordinated shifts in soil fertility, plant traits and ecological processes throughout ecosystem development, shifts in fungal communities within and among mycorrhizal types are weak or idiosyncratic. The consequences of these changes in mycorrhizal communities and their function for plant–soil feedbacks or control over long-term nutrient depletion remain poorly understood, but could be resolved through empirical analyses of long-term soil chronosequences.


Ecosystem development Mycorrhizal fungi community shifts Nutrient cycling Plant–soil feedbacks Retrogression Soil chronosequence Succession