Is plant genetic control of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities an untapped source of stable soil carbon in managed forests?
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Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi provide one of the main pathways for carbon (C) to move from trees into soils, where these fungi make significant contributions to microbial biomass and soil respiration.
ECM fungal species vary significantly in traits that likely influence C sequestration, such that forest C sequestration potential may be driven in part by the existing community composition of ECM fungi. Moreover, accumulating experimental data show that tree genotypes differ in their compatibility with particular ECM fungal species, i.e. mycorrhizal traits of forest trees are heritable. Those traits are genetically correlated with other traits for which tree breeders commonly select, suggesting that selection for traits of interest, such as disease resistance or growth rate, could lead to indirect selection for or against particular mycorrhizal traits of trees in forest plantations.
Altogether, these observations suggest that selection of particular tree genotypes could alter the community composition of symbiotic ECM fungi in managed forests, with cascading effects on soil functioning and soil C sequestration.
KeywordsCarbon sequestration Ectomycorrhizal fungi Pinus Extracellular enzymes
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