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J Exp Bot. 2000 Jun;51(347):1117-25.

Exclusion of grass roots from soil organic layers by Calluna: the role of ericoid mycorrhizas.

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  • 1Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK.


The role of ericoid mycorrhizal colonization in competition between the dwarf shrub Calluna vulgaris and coarse grass Nardus stricta was investigated. Nardus was grown alone, or in competition with Calluna, in a layered organic/sand substrate with and without inoculation with the ericoid mycorrhizal endophyte Hymenoscyphus ericae, and with and without the addition of nitrogen. Root length and allocation between different substrate layers was assessed along with plant biomass, nutrient uptake and mycorrhizal colonization. Calluna was the superior competitor for nutrients, probably because of its ability to concentrate root growth in the upper organic layer. In the presence of Calluna both the absolute amount and proportion of Nardus root length in the organic layer were reduced, and this reduction was greatest when Calluna was mycorrhizal. The presence of ericoid mycorrhizal colonization did not reduce Nardus shoot nutrient content or concentration, suggesting that ericoid mycorrhizal suppression of Nardus growth was not due to nutrient competition: alternative mechanisms of interference are discussed.

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