High abundance of non-mycorrhizal plant species in severely phosphorus-impoverished Brazilian campos rupestres

Graham Zemunik, Hans Lambers, Benjamin L. Turner, Etienne Laliberté, Rafael S. Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: We sought to describe the species and functional composition of Brazilian campos rupestres plant communities on severely nutrient-impoverished white sands, to test hypotheses relating plant communities and physiological adaptations to infertile soils. Based on recently-published information on a south-western Australian dune chronosequence, we hypothesised that campos rupestres plant communities would similarly contain a relatively large proportion of non-mycorrhizal species, because of the phosphorus-(P) impoverished nature of the soils. We also sought to test the hypothesis that many of these non-mycorrhizal species have high leaf manganese (Mn) concentrations as a consequence of carboxylate exudation to mobilise soil P. Methods: We conducted flora surveys and quantified mycorrhizal status and foliar Mn concentrations in field sites with strongly-weathered sandy soils. Rhizosphere carboxylates were collected from glasshouse-grown plants to assess a potential correlation of carboxylates and leaf Mn concentrations. Results: Soils were depleted of all major plant nutrients. Non-mycorrhizal plants were abundant in most field sites (mean relative cover = 48%). Vellozia species were dominant aboveground; belowground, roots were colonised more by dark septate endophytic fungi than by mycorrhizal fungi. From the field sites, foliar Mn concentrations in non-mycorrhizal species increased with decreasing soil P concentrations, but only when soil Mn concentrations were above a minimum threshold (exchangeable [Mn] above detection limit). Across all species, however, there was no relationship of foliar Mn concentrations with soil P concentrations. Conclusions: Our hypothesis that white-sand campos rupestres communities contain a relatively large proportion of non-mycorrhizal plants was supported. Comparison with similar ecosystems in south-western Australia suggests that plant communities on severely P-impoverished sandy soils, despite differing evolutionary histories and little overlap in plant families, follow convergent evolutionary paths towards increasing abundance of non-mycorrhizal species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-271
Number of pages17
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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