Beyond Mutualism: Complex Mycorrhizal Interactions

  • C. S. Bledsoe
  • M. F. AllenEmail author
  • D. Southworth
Part of the Progress in Botany book series (BOTANY, volume 75)


The soil–plant–fungal matrix is inherently complex. There are thousands of species, highly variable environments in time and space, multiple interactions within a range of resources, and exchanges between multiple trophic levels. Here, we look at the structure of that complexity to see if there are emergent properties that allow us to understand that complexity. We emphasize our work from Mediterranean-type ecosystems in California and Oregon, but the perspective is valid across biomes. We examine a diversity of mycorrhizal types, with an emphasis on interactions of arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) and ectomycorrhizae (EM) with host plants. These taxonomically different fungi differ in structural and biochemical properties including hyphal growth patterns and enzymatic capabilities. Because the symbionts are fungi, their hyphae connect multiple plants, forming networks. Materials (C, N, P, and water) are exchanged between plants through mycorrhizal networks. Importantly, networks themselves have structural properties that confer stability or instability and control the directions of flows. Thus, network theory has the ability to resolve patterns of elemental transfers and exchanges, and thus the outcomes for plant community dynamics. Also importantly, hyphae and fine roots have limited life spans, making interactions highly dynamic. Together, these dynamic interactions will help us unravel the complex relationships and the evolutionary histories that result in community and ecosystem dynamics.


Mycorrhizal Fungus Mycorrhizal Plant Annual Grass Arbuscular Mycorrhizae Hydraulic Lift 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Land, Air, and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Center for Conservation BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologySouthern Oregon UniversityAshlandUSA

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