Plant and Soil

, Volume 338, Issue 1–2, pp 411–421 | Cite as

Positive effects of ectomycorrhizal colonization on growth of seedlings of a tropical tree across a range of forest floor light conditions

  • Philippe SanerEmail author
  • Christopher Philipson
  • Robert C. Ong
  • Noreen Majalap
  • Simon Egli
  • Andy Hector
Regular Article


In a shadehouse experiment we tested the effects of light, nutrients and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) on the growth of Vatica albiramis van Slooten (Dipterocarpaceae) seedlings. We hypothesised that it is more advantageous for plants to form connections with EMF and to trade carbon for nutrients with EMF under high light than low light. The relationship between seedling growth and the proportion of ectomycorrhizal root tips was expected as positive in high light and as negative in low light. Light conditions simulated the forest understory (low; 3% full sunlight), a small gap (medium; 11%) and a large gap (high; 33%) and a fully factorial combination of nutrients (F−/+) and ectomycorrhizal colonization (EMF−/+) treatments were applied within light conditions. The application of EMF and nutrients did significantly alter seedling growth across the range of forest floor light conditions, however the key hypothesis was rejected as seedling growth under low light was not affected by increased EMF colonization of root tips (light:EMF colonization χ2 = 2.97, p = 0.23). In addition, the lack of difference in morphotype abundance across light conditions indicated that light changes may not favour the association to specific EMF in seedlings of this particular dipterocarp species. Our results suggest that antagonistic (non-beneficial to the plant) effects due to ectomycorrhizal colonization under a light constrained environment may not affect seedling growth of Vatica albiramis.


Vatica albiramis Dipterocarp Borneo Ectomycorrhizal colonization Soil solarization 



We thank: Martina Peter and Lee Su See for helpful discussion of the experimental design and morphotype identification; Charles Godfray and Glen Reynolds for their efforts in setting up and supporting the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment; Karin Beer together with research assistants from the Malua Field Station for providing field assistance; Jake Snaddon, Michael O’Brien, Thom W. Kuyper and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. The Economic Planning Unit Sabah, Malaysia and the Danum Valley Management Committee approved this field study. This project was funded by the University Zurich, with financial support from the Darwin Initiative fund and is part of the Royal Society South-East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (Project No. RS243). This is paper no. 3 of the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment.

Supplementary material

11104_2010_555_MOESM1_ESM.doc (30 kb)
Table S1 (DOC 30 kb)
11104_2010_555_MOESM2_ESM.doc (460 kb)
Table S2 (DOC 459 kb)
11104_2010_555_MOESM3_ESM.doc (38 kb)
Table S3 (DOC 38 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Saner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher Philipson
    • 1
  • Robert C. Ong
    • 2
  • Noreen Majalap
    • 2
  • Simon Egli
    • 3
  • Andy Hector
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Forest Research Centre, Forestry Department SabahSandakanMalaysia
  3. 3.Swiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland

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