An ecological view of the formation of VA mycorrhizas

Lynette Abbott, C. Gazey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


In spite of the major advances in understanding the functioning of symbioses between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, details of the ecology of mycorrhizal fungi are not well documented. The benefits of the association are related to the timing and extent of colonization of roots, and fungi differ in their contribution to plant growth and presumably to soil aggregation. Knowledge of the processes that lead to successful colonization of roots by beneficial fungi at appropriate times for the host plants will form the basis of guidelines for soil management to maximize the benefits from the symbiosis.Fungi differ in the manner and extent to which they colonize roots. They also differ in their capacity to form propagules. The importance of hyphae, spores and propagules within living or dead mycorrhizal roots also differs among species and for the same species in different habitats. The relationships between colonization of roots and propagule formation, and between propagule distribution and abundance and subsequent mycorrhiza formation, for different fungi in field environments, are not well understood.Methods for quantifying mycorrhizal fungi are not especially suitable for distinguishing among different fungi within roots. Consequently, the dynamics of colonization of roots by different fungi, within and between seasons, have been little studied. Research is required that focuses on the dynamics of fungi within roots as well as on changes in the abundance of propagules of different fungi within soil. Interactions between fungi during the colonization of roots, the colonization of soil by hyphae and sporulation are all poorly understood. Without knowledge of these processes, it will by difficult to predict the likely success of inoculation with introduced fungi. Such knowledge is also required for selecting soil management procedures to enhance growth and survival of key species within the population.The relative tolerance of various fungi to perturbations in their surroundings will provide a basis for identifying those fungi that are likely to persist in specific environments. The processes that influence mycorrhizal fungi in field soils can be identified in controlled studies. However, greater emphasis is required on studying these processes with mixed populations of fungi. The role played by diversity within populations of mycorrhizal fungi is virtually unexplored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-78
JournalPlant and Soil: An International Journal on Plant-Soil Relationships
Publication statusPublished - 1994


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