Subterranean Desert Rodents (Genus Ctenomys) Create Soil Patches Enriched in Root Endophytic Fungal Propagules

  • Victoria Miranda
  • Carolina Rothen
  • Natalia Yela
  • Adriana Aranda-Rickert
  • Johana Barros
  • Javier Calcagno
  • Sebastián Fracchia
Soil Microbiology


Subterranean rodents are considered major soil engineers, as they can locally modify soil properties by their burrowing activities. In this study, the effect of a subterranean rodent of the genus Ctenomys on soil properties and root endophytic fungal propagules in a shrub desert of northwest Argentina was examined. Our main goal was to include among root endophytic fungi not only arbuscular mycorrhiza but also the dark septate endophytes. We compared the abundance of fungal propagules as well as several microbiological and physicochemical parameters between soils from burrows and those from the surrounding landscape. Our results show that food haulage, the deposition of excretions, and soil mixing by rodents’ burrowing promote soil patchiness by (1) the enrichment in both types of root endophytic fungal propagules; (2) the increase in organic matter and nutrients; and (3) changes in soil edaphic properties including moisture, field capacity, and texture. These patches may play a critical role as a source of soil heterogeneity in desert ecosystems, where burrows constructed in interpatches of bare soil can act, once abandoned, as “islands of fertility,” promoting the establishment of plants in an otherwise hostile environment.


Biopedturbation Fungal dispersion Dark septate endophytes Arbuscular mycorrhiza Monte Desert 


Funding Information

This research was supported by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET-PICT 0546).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2018_1227_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Miranda
    • 1
  • Carolina Rothen
    • 1
  • Natalia Yela
    • 1
  • Adriana Aranda-Rickert
    • 1
  • Johana Barros
    • 1
  • Javier Calcagno
    • 2
  • Sebastián Fracchia
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica de La Rioja (CRILAR-CONICETProvincia de La Rioja, UNLAR, SEGEMAR, UNCa)Anillaco La RiojaArgentina
  2. 2.Centro de Estudios Biomédicos, Biotecnológicos, Ambientales y de Diagnóstico (CEBBAD), Departamento de Ciencias Naturales y AntropológicasCONICETBuenos AiresArgentina

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