Soil Ecology Restoration Group

last update October 14, 1999

Plant species-specific changes in root-inhabiting fungi in a California annual grassland: Responses to elevated CO, 2 and nutrients.


Five co-occurring plant species from an annual mediterranean grassland were grown in monoculture for 4 months in pots inside open-top chambers at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (San Mateo County, California). The plants were exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 and soil nutrient enrichment in a complete factorial experiment. The response of root-inhabiting non-mycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to the altered resource base depended strongly on the plant species. Elevated CO2 and fertilization altered the ratio of non-mycorrhizal to mycorrhizal fungal colonization for some plant species, but not for others. Percent root infection by non-mycorrhizal fungi increased by over 500% for Linanthus parviflorus in elevated CO2, but decreased by over 80% for Bromus hordeaceus. By contrast, the mean percent infection by mycorrhizal fungi increased in response to elevated CO2 for all species, but significantly only for Avena barbata and B. hordeaceus. Percent infection by mycorrhizal fungi increased, decreased, or remained unchanged for different plant hosts in response to fertilization. There was evidence of a strong interaction between the two treatments for some plant species and non-mycorrhizal and mycorrhizal fungi. This study demonstrated plant species- and soil fertility-dependent shifts in belowground plant resource allocation to different morpho- groups of fungal symbionts. This may have consequences for plant community responses to elevated CO2 in this California grassland ecosystem.