Mycorrhizal Symbiosis in Forest Ecosystems

Authored by: Leho Tedersoo

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447


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Mycorrhiza is a term for symbiotic interaction between plant roots and fungal mycelium in which the tissues of both partners are specifically differentiated for improved exchange of nutrients. In addition to plants and fungi, a wide array of prokaryotes and protists participate in the establishment and functioning of mycorrhizal symbiosis (Bueé et al., 2009). The outcome of symbiosis is not always beneficial to growth because both partners fight for their individual benefits (Jones and Smith, 2004) and there are other benefits unrelated to growth per se. Plants have evolved a mechanism to promote preferential association with the most beneficial mycorrhizal fungi at least to some extent (Kiers et al., 2011). In natural conditions, ca. 94 per cent of vascular plant species, most hepatics and bryophytes are typically colonized by mycorrhizal fungi. Notably, most members of the Sphagnaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Polygonaceae, Cyperaceae and Brassicaceae families as well as various parasitic, hydrophilous, carnivorous and cluster-rooted plants have secondarily reverted to the non-mycorrhizal habit (Brundrett, 2009). In fungi, the evolution of mycorrhizal strategy is as complex as it is in plants. In natural conditions, the association with root symbiotic fungi is obligatory in most of the mycorrhizal plants and in nearly all mycorrhizal fungi, depending on mycorrhiza type.

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