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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 2;107(5):2093-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0906710107. Epub 2010 Jan 19.

Resource limitation is a driver of local adaptation in mycorrhizal symbioses.

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  • 1Environmental and Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.


Symbioses may be important mechanisms of plant adaptation to their environment. We conducted a reciprocal inoculation experiment to test the hypothesis that soil fertility is a key driver of local adaptation in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbioses. Ecotypes of Andropogon gerardii from phosphorus-limited and nitrogen-limited grasslands were grown with all possible "home and away" combinations of soils and AM fungal communities. Our results indicate that Andropogon ecotypes adapt to their local soil and indigenous AM fungal communities such that mycorrhizal exchange of the most limiting resource is maximized. Grasses grown in home soil and inoculated with home AM fungi produced more arbuscules (symbiotic exchange structures) in their roots than those grown in away combinations. Also, regardless of the host ecotype, AM fungi produced more extraradical hyphae in their home soil, and locally adapted AM fungi were, therefore, able to sequester more carbon compared with nonlocal fungi. Locally adapted mycorrhizal associations were more mutualistic in the two phosphorus-limited sites and less parasitic at the nitrogen-limited site compared with novel combinations of plants, fungi, and soils. To our knowledge, these findings provide the strongest evidence to date that resource availability generates evolved geographic structure in symbioses among plants and soil organisms. Thus, edaphic origin of AM fungi should be considered when managing for their benefits in agriculture, ecosystem restoration, and soil-carbon sequestration.

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