The Physiological Ecology of Mycoheterotrophy

  • Nicole A. Hynson
  • Thomas P. Madsen
  • Marc-André Selosse
  • Iris K. U. Adam
  • Yuki Ogura-Tsujita
  • Melanie Roy
  • Gerhard Gebauer


The purpose of this chapter is to provide a practical and theoretical framework for the study of the ecophysiology of mycoheterotrophic plants. We accomplish this by providing a comparative overview of our current knowledge on carbon and nitrogen isotope natural abundance in partially and fully mycoheterotrophic plants associated with ectomycorrhizal, wood- and litter-decomposer saprotrophic, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and discuss their ecophysiological implications. We present a meta-analysis of all stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values from the majority of species of partially and fully mycoheterotrophic plants investigated thus far. We summarize our current understanding of the ecophysiology of fully mycoheterotrophic plants in the families Orchidaceae and Ericaceae as well as nonvascular plants, and species from the tropics that associate with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. We also review the occurrence of initial mycoheterotrophy among orchids and ericaceous plants that are autotrophic upon reaching adulthood. We highlight current studies of cryptic or partial mycoheterotrophy in green plants that appear to be fully autotrophic, but meet some portion of their C demands via fungi in a mixotrophic nutrition. Furthermore, we explore the utility of ecophysiological methods such as radioactive and stable isotope probing, measuring plant assimilatory and respiratory responses to environmental gradients such as light availability, and natural abundance stable isotope analysis for future studies of mycoheterotrophic food webs. Finally, methodological limitations and considerations for the study of physiological ecology of mycoheterotrophy are also outlined in this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole A. Hynson
    • 1
  • Thomas P. Madsen
    • 2
  • Marc-André Selosse
    • 3
  • Iris K. U. Adam
    • 4
  • Yuki Ogura-Tsujita
    • 5
  • Melanie Roy
    • 3
    • 6
  • Gerhard Gebauer
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE-CNRS)MontpellierFrance
  4. 4.Laboratory of Isotope Biogeochemistry, Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER)University of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  5. 5.Department of Chemical and Biological SciencesJapan Women’s UniversityTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (UMR5174 EDB)Université de ToulouseToulouseFrance

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