National Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
National Academy of Sciences
Mycorrhizal fungi are critical members of the plant microbiome, forming a symbiosis with the roots of most plants on Earth. Most plant species partner with either arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal fungi, and these symbioses are thought to represent plant adaptations to fast and slow soil nutrient cycling rates. This generates a second hypothesis, that arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal plant species traits complement and reinforce these fungal strategies, resulting in nutrient acquisitive vs. conservative plant trait profiles. Here we analyzed 17,764 species level trait observations from 2,940 woody plant species to show that mycorrhizal plants differ systematically in nitrogen and phosphorus economic traits. Differences were clearest in temperate latitudes, where ectomycorrhizal plant species are more nitrogen use- and phosphorus use-conservative than arbuscular mycorrhizal species. This difference is reflected in both aboveground and belowground plant traits and is robust to controlling for evolutionary history, nitrogen fixation ability, deciduousness, latitude, and species climate niche. Furthermore, mycorrhizal effects are large and frequently similar to or greater in magnitude than the influence of plant nitrogen fixation ability or deciduous vs. evergreen leaf habit. Ectomycorrhizal plants are also more nitrogen conservative than arbuscular plants in boreal and tropical ecosystems, although differences in phosphorus use are less apparent outside temperate latitudes. Our findings bolster current theories of ecosystems rooted in mycorrhizal ecology and support the hypothesis that plant mycorrhizal association is linked to the evolution of plant nutrient economic strategies.
Colin Averill, Jennifer M. Bhatnagar, Michael C. Dietze, William D. Pearse, and Stephanie N. Kivlin, Global imprint of mycorrhizal fungi on whole-plant nutrient economics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (2019), no. 46, 23163–23168.