Different native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi influence the coexistence of two plant species in a highly alkaline anthropogenic sediment
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Different species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can produce different amounts of extraradical mycelium (ERM) with differing architectures. They also have different efficiencies in gathering phosphate from the soil. These differences in phosphate uptake and ERM length or architecture may contribute to differential growth responses of plants and this may be an important contributor to plant species coexistence. The effects of the development of the ERM of AMF on the coexistence of two co-occurring plant species were investigated in root-free hyphal chambers in a rhizobox experimental unit. The dominant shrub (Salix atrocinerea Brot.) and herbaceous (Conyza bilbaoana J. Rémy) plant species found in a highly alkaline anthropogenic sediment were studied in symbiosis with four native AMF species (Glomus intraradices BEG163, Glomus mosseae BEG198, Glomus geosporum BEG199 and Glomus claroideum BEG210) that were the most abundant members of the AMF community found in the sediment. Different AMF species did not influence total plant productivity (sum of the biomass of C. bilbaoana and S. atrocinerea), but had a great impact on the individual biomass of each plant species. The AMF species with greater extracted ERM lengths (G. mosseae BEG198, G. claroideum BEG210 and the four mixed AMF) preferentially benefited the plant species with a high mycorrhizal dependency (C. bilbaoana), while the AMF species with the smallest ERM length (G. geosporum BEG199) benefited the plant species with a low mycorrhizal dependency (S. atrocinerea). Seed production of C. bilbaoana was only observed in plants inoculated with G. mosseae BEG198, G. claroideum BEG210 or the mixture of the four AMF. Our results show that AMF play an important role in the reproduction of C. bilbaoana coexisting with S. atrocinerea in the alkaline sediment and have the potential to stimulate or completely inhibit seed production. The community composition of native AMF and the length of the mycelium they produce spreading from roots into the surrounding soil can be determinant of the coexistence of naturally co-occurring plant species.