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Oecologia. 2009 Jul;160(4):807-16. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1345-6. Epub 2009 Apr 18.

Trade-offs between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal competitive ability and host growth promotion in Plantago lanceolata.

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  • 1Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


In this study we tested for trade-offs between the benefit arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi provide for hosts and their competitive ability in host roots, and whether this potential trade-off shifts in the presence of a plant stress (herbivory). We used three species of AM fungi previously determined to vary in host growth promotion and spore production in association with host plants. We found that these AM fungal species competed for root space, and the best competitor, Scutellospora calospora, was the worst mutualist. In addition, the worst competitor, Glomus white, was the best mutualist. Competition proved to have stronger effects on fungal infection patterns than herbivory, and competitive dominance was not altered by herbivory. We found a similar pattern in a previous test of competition among AM fungi, and we discuss the implications of these results for the persistence of the mutualism and feedbacks between AM fungi and their plant hosts.

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