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Tree Physiol. 2001 Feb;21(2-3):71-82.

Rates and quantities of carbon flux to ectomycorrhizal mycelium following 14C pulse labeling of Pinus sylvestris seedlings: effects of litter patches and interaction with a wood-decomposer fungus.

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  • 1Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK.


We used a novel digital autoradiographic technique that enabled, for the first time, simultaneous visualization and quantification of spatial and temporal changes in carbon allocation patterns in ectomycorrhizal mycelia. Mycorrhizal plants of Pinus sylvestris L. were grown in microcosms containing non-sterile peat. The time course and spatial distribution of carbon allocation by P. sylvestris to mycelia of its mycorrhizal partners, Paxillus involutus (Batsch) Fr. and Suillus bovinus (L.): Kuntze, were quantified following 14C pulse labeling of the plants. Litter patches were used to investigate the effects of nutrient resource quality on carbon allocation. The wood-decomposer fungus Phanerochaete velutina (D.C.: Pers.) Parmasto was introduced to evaluate competitive and territorial interactions between its mycelial cords and the mycelial system of S. bovinus. Growth of ectomycorrhizal mycelium was stimulated in the litter patches. Nearly 60% of the C transferred from host plant to external mycorrhizal mycelium (> 2 mm from root surfaces) was allocated to mycelium in the patches, which comprised only 12% of the soil area available for mycelial colonization. Mycelia in the litter patch most recently colonized by mycorrhizal mycelium received the largest investment of carbon, amounting to 27 to 50% of the total 14C in external mycorrhizal mycelium. The amount of C transfer to external mycelium of S. bovinus following pulse labeling was reduced from a maximum of 167 nmol in systems with no saprotroph to a maximum of 61 nmol in systems interacting with P. velutina. The 14C content of S. bovinus mycelium reached a maximum 24-36 h after labeling in control microcosms, but allocation did not reach a peak until 56 h after labeling, when S. bovinus interacted with mycelium of P. velutina. The mycelium of S. bovinus contained 9% of the total 14C in the plants (including mycorrhizae) at the end of the experiment, but this was reduced to 4% in the presence of P. velutina. The results demonstrate the dynamic manner in which mycorrhizal mycelia deploy C when foraging for nutrients. The inhibitory effect of the wood-decomposer fungus P. velutina on C allocation to external mycorrhizal mycelium has important implications for nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems.

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