Plant-Microbe Mutualisms and Community Structure

  • D. J. Read
Part of the Praktische Zahnmedizin Odonto-Stomatologie Pratique Practical Dental Medicine book series (SSE, volume 99)


Analyses of the occurrence of mutualistic associations between plants and fungi or bacteria in natural plant communities indicate that they are the norm rather than the exception. Thus, for example, 90% of the world’s land plants are known to belong to families in which mutualistic associations with fungi occur routinely to form mycorrhizas (Trappe 1987), three major types of which (vesicular-arbuscular, ecto- and ericoid) are recognised. Major sections of the Leguminosae have nitrogen-fixing bacteria of the genus Rhizobium as mutualists, in addition to mycorrhizal fungi, while N2fixing actinorhizal associations involving Frankia spp. occur in a number of families which are also mycorrhizal (Schwintzer and Tjepkema 1990; Cervantes and Rodriguez-Barrueco 1992). The widespread present-day occurrence, taken along with the fact that there is fossil evidence for the early appearance of both the mycorrhizal (Stubblefield et al. 1987) and nitrogen-fixing (Sprent and Raven 1985) symbioses, suggests that selection has strongly favoured such mutualisms. Indeed, it seems that terrestrial plants co-evolved with their mutualists. In view of this, it is most unlikely that those experimental analyses of the factors determining the development and structure of plant communities which ignore the presence of mutualists will provide a realistic picture.


Mycorrhizal Fungus Ectomycorrhizal Fungus Mycorrhizal Infection Mycorrhizal Mycelium Rumex Acetosa 
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