, Volume 28, Issue 8, pp 717–726 | Cite as

Rapid temporal changes in root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and fine root endophytes, not dark septate endophytes, track plant activity and environment in an alpine ecosystem

  • Clifton P. Bueno de MesquitaEmail author
  • Cormac M. Martinez del Río
  • Katharine N. Suding
  • Steven K. Schmidt
Original Article


Fungal root endophytes play an important role in plant nutrition, helping plants acquire nutrients in exchange for photosynthates. We sought to characterize the progression of root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), dark septate endophytes (DSE), and fine root endophytes (FRE) over an alpine growing season, and to understand the role of the host plant and environment in driving colonization levels. We sampled four forbs on a regular schedule from June 26th–September 11th from a moist meadow (3535 m a.s.l) on Niwot Ridge, Rocky Mountain Front Range, CO, USA. We quantified the degree of root colonization by storage structures, exchange structures, and hyphae of all three groups of fungi. AMF and FRE percent colonization fluctuated significantly over time, while DSE did not. All AMF structures changed over time, and the degree of change in vesicles differed by plant species. FRE hyphae, AMF arbuscules and AMF vesicles peaked late in the season as plants produced seeds. AMF hyphae levels started high, decreased, and then increased within 20 days, highlighting the dynamic nature of plant-fungal interactions. Overall, our results show that AMF and FRE, not DSE, root colonization rapidly changes over the course of a growing season and these changes are driven by plant phenology and seasonal changes in the environment.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Dark septate endophytes Fine root endophytes Root colonization Temporal dynamics Phenology 



CPB was funded by the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research program (National Science Foundation DEB 1637686). CMM was funded by the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the CU Mountain Research Station (National Science Foundation DBI 1460906). We thank the Niwot Ridge LTER program and CU Mountain Research Station for logistical support. We thank Jane Smith, Sam Sartwell, Joshua Addison, Lauren Zappaterrini, and Alexander Sandberg-Bernard for help in the field and lab. We thank the members of the Suding Lab for helpful feedback on this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

572_2018_863_MOESM1_ESM.docx (205 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 205 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Arctic and Alpine ResearchUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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