Interaction between legume and arbuscular mycoorhizal fungi identity alters the competitive ability of warm-season grass species in a grassland community.

Klabi, R., Hamel, C., Schellenberg, M.P., Iwaasa, A.D., Raies, A., and St-Amaud, M. (2014). "Interaction between legume and arbuscular mycoorhizal fungi identity alters the competitive ability of warm-season grass species in a grassland community.", Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 70, pp. 176-182. doi : 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.12.019  Access to full text

Abstract

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and N2-fixing legumes can alter the community structure of grasses. However, the effect of AMF, N2-fixing legumes, and their interaction on the dynamics of prairie grass communities remains unclear. The aim of this study was to clarify the influence of two AMF (Glomus cubense and Glomus sp.) and two legumes (Medicago sativa and Dalea purpurea) on the competitive relationship between three native cool-season (Elymus canadensis, Elymus trachycaulus ssp.subsecundus, and Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus) and two native warm-season species of grasses (Schizachyrium scoparium and Bouteloua gracilis). Results show that AMF and legumes altered the community structure of the grasses. G. cubense favoured the productivity of warm-season B. graciliswhen growing with M. sativa. This might be related to a negative impact of G. cubense on the nitrogen-fixing activity of M. sativa and to a lower N-use efficiency of E. canadensis and E. lanceolatus ssp.lanceolatus under competition. This suggested an increased ability of B. gracilis to use the available N resource as affected by more competitive species, whereas Glomus sp. reduced the competitive ability of this grass when associated with M. sativa. The decrease in B. gracilis biomass was thus likely caused by enhancement of P uptake by M. sativa over this grass. Glomus sp. was beneficial to S. scoparium, another warm-season species, in the absence of legumes, and this may be attributed to improved P-use efficiency of this grass under competition with cool season-grasses. In contrast, AMF and legumes were not beneficial for the cool season grasses. G. cubense depressed the growth of E. trachycaulus ssp.subsecundus, and M. sativa decreased nutrient uptake by cool-season native grasses. This study shows that beneficial effect of the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis on the coexistence of warm-season grasses with more competitive cool-season grasses depends on the identity of the AMF symbiont, the presence of legume species, and nitrogen resource availability that was affected by the most competitive species or P-use efficiency of warm season species.

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