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Front Microbiol. 2014 Jun 3;5:261. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00261. eCollection 2014.

Specificity of plant-microbe interactions in the tree mycorrhizosphere biome and consequences for soil C cycling.

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Belowground Ecosystem Group, Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Mycorrhizal associations are ubiquitous and form a substantial component of the microbial biomass in forest ecosystems and fluxes of C to these belowground organisms account for a substantial portion of carbon assimilated by forest vegetation. Climate change has been predicted to alter belowground plant-allocated C which may cause compositional shifts in soil microbial communities, and it has been hypothesized that this community change will influence C mitigation in forest ecosystems. Some 10,000 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi are currently recognized, some of which are host specific and will only associate with a single tree species, for example, Suillus grevillei with larch. Mycorrhizae are a strong sink for plant C, differences in mycorrhizal anatomy, particularly the presence and extent of emanating hyphae, can affect the amount of plant C allocated to these assemblages. Mycorrhizal morphology affects not only spatial distribution of C in forests, but also differences in the longevity of these diverse structures may have important consequences for C sequestration in soil. Mycorrhizal growth form has been used to group fungi into distinctive functional groups that vary qualitatively and spatially in their foraging and nutrient acquiring potential. Through new genomic techniques we are beginning to understand the mechanisms involved in the specificity and selection of ectomycorrhizal associations though much less is known about arbuscular mycorrhizal associations. In this review we examine evidence for tree species- mycorrhizal specificity, and the mechanisms involved (e.g., signal compounds). We also explore what is known about the effects of these associations and interactions with other soil organisms on the quality and quantity of C flow into the mycorrhizosphere (the area under the influence of mycorrhizal root tips), including spatial and seasonal variations. The enormity of the mycorrhizosphere biome in forests and its potential to sequester substantial C belowground highlights the vital importance of increasing our knowledge of the dynamics of the different mycorrhizal functional groups in diverse forests.


LMWOA; arbuscular mycorrhizae; carbon cycling; ectomycorrhizae; mycorrhizosphere; plant-microbe interactions; root exudates; signaling

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