Local regulation of mycorrhizal arbuscule frequency in enriched soil microsites
Authors: Duke, SE, RB Jackson, MM Caldwell
Increased nutrient availability reduces vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) associations with plants, but whether increased nutrients in small volumes of soil affects local VAM colonization is not known. In a field experiment we investigated VAM colonization at different times following fertilization of small soil patches. Soil volumes of 1000 cm3 were treated with a nutrient solution (enriched patch) or distilled water (control patch) on opposite sides of individual plants of the tussock grass Agropyron desertorum and the shrub Artemisia tridentata. Agropyron had significantly lower (p=0.03) arbuscular infection in the locally enriched patches compared to control patches (32 and 40%, respectively). This reduced arbuscule frequency was apparent at the first sampling (3 days following treatment application) and remained lower in each subsequent sampling (as much as 30% lower than the control patches). Artemisia revealed a similar pattern in arbuscule frequency but was not statistically significant. Our results suggest that a plant can locally reduce VAM development, since arbuscule frequency specifically locally reduced even though vesicle and overall infection was not. Since mycorrhizal infection does not increase, we conclude that increased plant root proliferation and uptake capacity are likely to be more important for the exploitation of temporary nutrient pulses or patches than is increased mycorrhizal activity.