The Role of Various Types of Mycorrhizal Fungi in Nutrient Cycling and Plant Competition

  • Rien Aerts
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 157)


More than 90% of terrestrial plant species associate with mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi play an important role in the mineral nutrition of plants. This chapter focuses on the ability of various mycorrhiza-types: arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), ecto-mycorrhizal fungi (EMF) and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi to utilise different soil nutrient sources (EMF and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi: organic N; AMF: inorganic P) and the consequences of this ability for plant competition and plant-soil feed-backs. A conceptual model is presented which shows that this differentiation in the use of various inorganic and organic nutrient sources may create positive feed-backs between plant species dominance, litter chemistry, litter decomposition, and the dominant mycorrhiza type. However, the mycorrhizal impact, especially of ericoid mycorrhizal fungi and ecto-mycorrhizal fungi, on this triad of plant nutrition, plant competition, and ecosystem functioning can be strongly reduced under high levels of atmospheric nitrogen input. As increased N input leads to a relative P shortage in ecosystems, it can be expected that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal species become progressively more dominant. However, the effects of increased N supply on AMF colonisation are very variable. Studies show that positive, negative or no effects are found in almost equal proportions.


Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungus Mycorrhizal Fungus Mycorrhizal Plant Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Species Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungus Colonisation 
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  • Rien Aerts

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