Plant and Soil

, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 153–159

Intraspecific transfer of carbon between plants linked by a common mycorrhizal network


  • J.D. Graves
    • Biology DepartmentThe University of York
  • N.K. Watkins
    • Biology DepartmentThe University of York
  • A.H. Fitter
    • Biology DepartmentThe University of York
  • D. Robinson
    • Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie
  • C. Scrimgeour
    • Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie

DOI: 10.1023/A:1004257812555

Cite this article as:
Graves, J., Watkins, N., Fitter, A. et al. Plant and Soil (1997) 192: 153. doi:10.1023/A:1004257812555


To quantify the involvement of arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) fungi in the intraspecific transport of carbon (C) between plants we fumigated established Festuca ovina turf for one week with air containing depleted 13C. This labelled current assimilate in a section of mycorrhizal or non-mycorrhizal turf. Changes in the 13/12C ratio of adjacent, unfumigated plants, therefore, allowed the movement of C between labelled and unlabelled plants to be estimated. In mycorrhizal turves, 41% of the C exported to the roots from the leaves was transported to neighbouring plants. The most likely explanation of this is was the transport of C via a common hyphal network connecting the roots of different plants. No inter-plant transport of C was detected in non-mycorrhizal turves. There was no evidence that the C left fungal structures and entered the roots of receiver plants. Mycorrhizal colonisation increased carbon transport from leaves to root from 10% of fixed carbon when non-mycorrhizal to 36% in mycorrhizal turves. These results suggest that AM fungi impose a significantly greater C drain on host plants than was previously thought.

arbuscular mycorrhizacarbon allocationcarbon costcarbon transportcommon mycorrhizal networkδ13C

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997