Plant Ecology

, Volume 185, Issue 1, pp 123–134

Some Mediterranean plant species (Lavandula spp. and Thymus satureioides) act as potential ‘plant nurses’ for the early growth of Cupressus atlantica

  • L. Ouahmane
  • R. Duponnois
  • M. Hafidi
  • M. Kisa
  • A. Boumezouch
  • J. Thioulouse
  • C. Plenchette


The mycorrhizal status of several representative shrub species (Lavandula spp. and Thymus satureioides) in Moroccan semiarid ecosystems, was evaluated as well as their contribution to the mycorrhizal potential of the soil. Furthermore, the rhizosphere soils collected under these target species were tested for their influence on the growth of Cupressus atlantica, a tree species whose natural stands has declined in this area. Soil samples were collected from the rhizosphere of L. stoechas, L. dentata and of C. atlantica existing in the experimental area. Control samples were randomly collected from bare soil sites, away from plant influence.

All the target species formed AM symbiosis and the extent of AM fungal colonization was not significantly different between plant species. No significant difference was detected between the total number of AM fungal spores of the bare soil and those recorded in the root zones of target species and C. atlantica. Three genera of AM fungi (Scutellospora, Glomus and Acaulospora) were present in the rhizospheres of the plant species and in the bare soil.

The number of mycorrhizal propagules in soil originating from around the four target plant species was significantly higher than the one in the bare soil (Figure 1). The most probable number (MPN) of mycorrhizal propagules per 100 g of dry soil ranged from 7.82 (bare soil) to 179.7 (L. dentata and C. atlantica) and 244.5 (L. stoechas and T. satureioides). As the total number of spores was not different for the soil of different origins, the increase of the mycorrhizal soil infectivity (MSI) mainly resulted from larger AM mycelial networks that constituted the main source of AM fungal inoculum. In addition, this MSI enhancement was linked with changes in the functioning of soil microbial communities. In a glasshouse experiment, the growth of C. atlantica seedlings was significantly higher in the C. atlantica and in the shrub species soils than in the bare soil. Although the AM inoculum potential is not sufficient to ensure the development of forest trees in Mediterranean ecosystems, the use of plant nurses such as T. satureioides or Lavandula spp. could be of great interest to restore a self-sustaining vegetation cover to act against desertification.

Key words

Arbuscular mycorrhiza Cupressus atlantica Degraded forest ecosystems Microbial catabolic diversity Nurse plant Restoration ecology Revegetation strategies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Ouahmane
    • 1
    • 2
  • R. Duponnois
    • 3
  • M. Hafidi
    • 1
  • M. Kisa
    • 3
  • A. Boumezouch
    • 1
  • J. Thioulouse
    • 4
  • C. Plenchette
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculté des Sciences SemlaliaUniversité Cadi AyyadMarrakechMaroc
  2. 2.Direction Régionale des Eaux et Forêts du Haut AtlasMarrakechMaroc
  3. 3.IRD, UMR 113 CIRAD/INRA/IRD/AGRO-M/UM2, Laboratoire des Symbioses Tropicales et Méditerranéennes (LSTM)Montpellier CedexFrance
  4. 4.CNRS, UMR 5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie EvolutiveUniversité Lyon 1Lyon CedexFrance
  5. 5.INRA, UMR BGADijonFrance

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