Soil Ecology Restoration Group

last update December 8, 1998

Disturbance and Seasonal Dynamics of Mycorrhizae in a Tropical Deciduous Forest in Mexico


Mycorrhizal fungi were sampled in a deciduous tropical forest on the Pacific coast of Mexico during different seasons and in natural treefall gaps and pastures. All 12 plant species sampled in the forest were arbuscular mycorrhizal. The percent root infection and spore production were closely related to the phenology of the plants. Most tree species and all herbaceous species had the highest infection in the summer rainy season, but two species, Opuntia excelsa and Jacquinia pungens, had highest infection in the dry season. Unusually high rainfall during the dry season was associated with increased infection but not increased spore production. Spore density was low for all species at all sample times, except at the beginning of the July 1993 rainy season, when we observed up to 28 spores/g soil.
The percent cover of shrubs or herbs did not increase in gaps after two years, and we observed no colonizing seedlings. No plant species with cover higher than 2.7 percent occurred exclusively n gaps or forest. The percent mycorrhizal infection did not differ significantly between gaps and forest. Spore counts were as high in the gaps as in the forest in two of the three gaps but lower in the third gap. The lack of significant response of plants in these gaps and to light infiltration to the forest floor. Pastures were dominated by two species of exotic grasses and one species of mycorrhizal fungus, whereas forests had 15 fungal species. The slow regrowth of vegetation in gaps was not limited by mycorrhizal fungi, since they were still abundant after the treefalls, but recovery in pastures could be affected by low fungal diversity and dominance of grasses.