last update May 4, 1998
Using Bromus hordeaceus, a grass from a Mediterranean annual grassland in California, we measured changes in infection intensity, rather than the more traditional % root infection, as an indicator of response to elevated atmospheric CO2 and soil nutrient enrichment. Intensity was measured as the number of intraradical hyphae intersecting a microscope cross-hair for specific root diameter size classes. We found an increase in intensity of infection when plants were exposed to elevated CO2, and we found a decrease in infection intensity when plants were fertilized. This finding is significant in that it provides evidence for an increase in carbon allocation to the mycobiont under elevated CO2 even in the absence of change in percent infection, or mycorrhizal root length. Previous studies may therefore have overlooked an important response of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to this treatment, leading to an underestimation of the importance of mycorrhizae under elevated CO2. Infection intensity may also change in response to many other treatments and environmental variables that the symbiosis is exposed to, highlighting the potential usefulness of intesnsity as a response variable in mycorrhizal research.