Do ectomycorrhizal fungi influence the niche breadth of trees?
Above ground ecological breadth in a below ground context
Locally adapted ectomycorrhizal fungi may increase the ecological breadth of individual plants by mitigating environmental variability as perceived by the host plant. Ectomycorrhizal fungi have diverse functional capabilities relative to plants and, therefore, increased diversity of mycorrhizal associations would be expected to increase the functional capabilities of plants. Ectomycorrhizal fungi could play a much more active role in tracking the environment, whereas the plant may be relatively passive. If true, this would produce two patterns: 1.) Plants would become disconnected from their environment so that the variability of plant productivity in a heterogeneous environment is less in the presence than in the absence of ectomycorrhizas. 2.) The potentially marked changes in ectomycorrhizal fungal species over environmental distance would enable plants to survive in environments that would otherwise be detrimental to non-mycorrhizal plants. In other words, if the appropriate fungal community is matched to a plant, then the tolerance of that plant to environmental extremes will be increased.
Justine Karst is addressing this issue in her Ph.D. thesis.
Last reviewed 4/8/2015 12:34:39 PM