Spatial Heterogeneity in Mycorrhizal Populations and Communities: Scales and Mechanisms

  • Benjamin E. Wolfe
  • Jeri L. Parrent
  • Alexander M. Koch
  • Benjamin A. Sikes
  • Monique Gardes
  • John N. Klironomos


The importance of a spatial context in understanding the ecology and evolution of organisms has become increasingly clear. Although there is a growing awareness of the importance of mycorrhizal fungi in many communities and ecosystems, much of this understanding is based on a spatially homogenized view of these soil fungi. This homogenized approach may limit our understanding of how these organisms interact with plants and other biota in the field. As an attempt to advance a spatial framework for understanding mycorrhizal ecology, we review our current understanding of the spatial structure of communities and populations of ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi at the scale of landscapes, communities, and individual host root systems. A variety of potential mechanisms such as disturbance, abiotic and biotic dispersal of mycorrhizal propagules, and biotic interactions may be responsible for generating and maintaining this spatial variation of populations and communities, but the links between observed spatial patterns and mechanisms have yet to be formed. Future work assessing the potential functional significance of spatial variation of mycorrhizal fungi for plant communities and ecosystem function, as well as measuring spatial variation in mycorrhizal function, will continue to advance our understanding of the spatial template for mycorrhizal–plant interactions in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin E. Wolfe
    • 1
  • Jeri L. Parrent
    • 2
  • Alexander M. Koch
    • 2
  • Benjamin A. Sikes
    • 2
  • Monique Gardes
    • 3
  • John N. Klironomos
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphONCanada
  3. 3.Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité BiologiqueUniversité Paul SabatierFrance

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