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    Many trees species form symbiotic associations with ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi, which improve nutrient and water acquisition of their host. Until now it is unclear whether the species richness of ECM fungi is beneficial for tree seedling performance, be it during moist conditions or drought. We performed a pot experiment using Pinus sylvestris seedlings inoculated with four selected ECM fungi (Cenococcum geophilum, Paxillus involutus, Rhizopogon roseolus and Suillus granulatus) to investigate (i) whether these four ECM fungi, in monoculture or in species mixtures, affect growth of P. sylvestris seedlings, and (ii) whether this effect can be attributed to species number per se or to species identity. Two different watering regimes (moist vs. dry) were applied to examine the context-dependency of the results. Additionally, we assessed the activity of eight extracellular enzymes in the root tips. Shoot growth was enhanced in the presence of S. granulatus, but not by any other ECM fungal species. The positive effect of S. granulatus on shoot growth was more pronounced under moist (threefold increase) than under dry conditions (twofold increase), indicating that the investigated ECM fungi did not provide additional support during drought stress. The activity of secreted extracellular enzymes was higher in S. granulatus than in any other species. In conclusion, our findings suggest that ECM fungal species composition may affect seedling performance in terms of aboveground biomass.

    Citation

    Tabea Kipfer, Thomas Wohlgemuth, Marcel G A van der Heijden, Jaboury Ghazoul, Simon Egli. Growth response of drought-stressed Pinus sylvestris seedlings to single- and multi-species inoculation with ectomycorrhizal fungi. PloS one. 2012;7(4):e35275

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    PMID: 22496914

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