University of Oulu

Mycorrhizal colonization and plant performance in arcto-alpine conditions

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Author: Ruotsalainen, Anna Liisa1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2003
Publish Date: 2003-05-02
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on May 2nd, 2003, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Docent Robin Sen
Associate Professor Martin Weih


Mycorrhizal symbiosis is generally advantageous for plants in nutrient-poor soils. Arcto-alpine areas are relatively nutrient-poor, but abundantly inhabited by non-mycorrhizal species. Possibly, mycorrhizal symbiosis is not favoured due to the harsh climatic conditions and the short growing season, which constrain the photosynthetic gain and growth of the arcto-alpine plants. This hypothesis was theoretically evaluated by assuming that optimal mycorrhizal colonization maximizes the net carbon gain of the host plant. In addition, the prevalence of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and dark-septate endophytic (DSE) fungi along an altitudinal gradient was studied in the field, and their effects on the plant performance were tested in the laboratory.

In the model, the photosynthetic nutrient use efficiency (PNUE) had a key role in determining whether mycorrhizal strategy would be optimal for the plant net carbon gain. The model generated several colonization patterns depending on possible changes in PNUE and soil nutrient concentrations along altitudinal gradients. Field studies indicated that species-level colonizations do not yield a consistent pattern along the altitude except for fine endophyte, which increased along an altitudinal gradient. In a high-alpine field site root fungal colonizations were rare. Seasonal shifts in colonizations in low-alpine conditions were not found. DSE fungi were common root-associates in the field. In the laboratory, AM had a positive impact on the performance of Gnaphalium norvegicum at 15°C, but not at 8°C. DSE-inoculation did not colonize the roots, but it had a positive impact on seedling performance, which may be due to the saprophytic activity of the fungus in the substrate. Additionally, mycorrhizal inoculum was found to decrease the performance of a non-mycorrhizal plant in a competition experiment.

Species-level mycorrhizal colonization patterns may differ from community-level pattern along altitudinal gradients and the relative abundance of different fungal symbionts may change along with the altitude. The performance of mycorrhizal plants in high-alpine conditions may be decreased due to several factors e.g. low temperature constraints on plant and fungal physiology and allocation, soil disturbances and low availability of inoculum. Climatic constraints for plant photosynthesis may thus affect the mycorrhizal colonization patterns in arcto-alpine conditions, but are not necessarily the primary cause for lower performance of mycorrhizal plants at higher altitudes.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-6988-8
ISBN Print: 951-42-6987-X
Issue: 399
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2003. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.