Plant and Soil

, Volume 367, Issue 1–2, pp 11–39 | Cite as

Mycorrhizas and mycorrhizal fungal communities throughout ecosystem development

  • Ian A. Dickie
  • Laura B. Martínez-García
  • Nina Koele
  • G.-A. Grelet
  • Jason M. Tylianakis
  • Duane A. Peltzer
  • Sarah J. Richardson
Marschner Review


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 



This research was primarily supported by Core funding for Crown Research Institutes from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Science and Innovation Group, with additional funding to I.A.D. and N.K. from the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand. G.-A. G is funded by a Marie Curie international outgoing fellowship (IOF-GA-2010-252446) from the European Commission and J.M.T. by a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. We also thank Christine Bezar for editing the text, Paul Selmants and Troy Baisden for sharing botanical knowledge of the Northern Arizona and San Joaquin Valley chronosequences, respectively, and Matt McGlone, Ben Sikes, Tom Bruns and two anonymous reviewers for review and discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian A. Dickie
    • 1
  • Laura B. Martínez-García
    • 1
  • Nina Koele
    • 1
  • G.-A. Grelet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jason M. Tylianakis
    • 3
  • Duane A. Peltzer
    • 1
  • Sarah J. Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.Institute of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  3. 3.Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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