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Ecology. 2007 Mar;88(3):559-66.

Distinct mycorrhizal communities on new and established hosts in a transitional tropical plant community.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


The extent to which interspecific plants share mycorrhizal fungal communities depends on the specificity of the symbiosis. For tropical forest tree seedlings, colonization by mycorrhizal fungi associated with established vegetation could have important consequences for survival and growth. I used a novel molecular technique to assess the potential for sharing of mycorrhizas in forest and pasture in southern Costa Rica, by identifying arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in roots of the forest canopy tree species Terminalia amazonia, pasture grasses Urochloa ruziziensis and U. decumbens, and seedlings of T. amazonia planted into experimental reforestation plots. I tested the hypotheses that experimental seedlings were colonized either by the AM fungal community of the forest T. amazonia (suggesting host specificity) or of Urochloa (suggesting absence of specificity/importance of local environment). After two years, pasture-grown T. amazonia seedlings were colonized by neither community, but rather by a species of Glomus that was rarely observed on the other plants. These results suggest that conspecific seedlings planted into existing vegetation generate a distinct mycorrhizal community that may influence competitive interactions and the relative costs and benefits of the AM fungal symbiosis at early stages in the life cycle of tropical trees.

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