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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Feb;67(2):495-8.

Management of indigenous plant-microbe symbioses aids restoration of desertified ecosystems.

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Departamento de Microbiología del Suelo y Sistemas Simbióticos, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, CSIC, 18008 Granada, Spain.


Disturbance of natural plant communities is the first visible indication of a desertification process, but damage to physical, chemical, and biological soil properties is known to occur simultaneously. Such soil degradation limits reestablishment of the natural plant cover. In particular, desertification causes disturbance of plant-microbe symbioses which are a critical ecological factor in helping further plant growth in degraded ecosystems. Here we demonstrate, in two long-term experiments in a desertified Mediterranean ecosystem, that inoculation with indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and with rhizobial nitrogen-fixing bacteria not only enhanced the establishment of key plant species but also increased soil fertility and quality. The dual symbiosis increased the soil nitrogen (N) content, organic matter, and hydrostable soil aggregates and enhanced N transfer from N-fixing to nonfixing species associated within the natural succession. We conclude that the introduction of target indigenous species of plants associated with a managed community of microbial symbionts is a successful biotechnological tool to aid the recovery of desertified ecosystems.

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