Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Enhance Plant Diversity, Density and Productivity of Spring Ephemeral Community in Desert Ecosystem

Zhaoyong SHI, Yongming WANG, Shouxia XU, Zhijian LAN, Bede S. MICKAN, Xiaolong ZHANG, Fayuan WANG


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form intimate associations with the roots of about 85% of all terrestrial plants, and can greatly increase a plant’s uptake of soil nutrients and have been shown to influence plant diversity in several ecosystems. A lot of studies have reported the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizas on plant density, species diversity, richness and productivity in desert herbland in Gurbantonggut desert, China. Here, we conduct a mycorrhizal functional study by suppressing AM fungi by applying the fungicide benomyl as a soil drench in soil cores and field in-situ experiment. The mycorrhiza-responsiveness of the dominant species Erodium oxyrrhynchum is assessed in intact soil cores containing the indigenous AM fungi. The soil-cores experiment displayed E. oxyrrhynchum to have a significant positive shoot and root growth response, and this is in response to the abundance of the indigenous AM fungal colonisation. The field experiment indicates the total aboveground dry biomass is negatively influenced by the suppression of AM fungi, though, no significant effect produced in the dominant and common plant species. The fungal suppression also affected density, species diversity and richness. The density of non-mycorrhizal plant Alyssum linifolium increases significantly in the treatment of suppressed AM fungi. The spore density decreases significantly in benomyl-treated plots. Our results showed that AM fungi were very important in desert ecosystem for the maintaining of plant biodiversity, richness and productivity.

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