The production of ectomycorrhizal mycelium in forests: Relation between forest nutrient status and local mineral sources

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Due to acid rain and nitrogen deposition, there is growing concern that other mineral nutrients, primarily potassium and phosphorus, might limit forest production in boreal forests. Ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi are important for the acquisition of potassium and phosphorus by trees. In a field investigation, the effects of poor potassium and phosphorus status of forest trees on the production of EcM mycelium were examined. The production of EcM mycelium was estimated in mesh bags containing sand, which were buried in the soil of forests of different potassium and phosphorus status. Mesh bags with 2% biotite or 1% apatite in sand were also buried to estimate the effect of local sources of nutrients on the production of EcM mycelium. No clear relation could be found between the production of EcM mycelium and nutrient status of the trees. Apatite stimulated the mycelial production, while biotite had no significant effect. EcM root production at the mesh bag surfaces was stimulated by apatite amendment in a forest with poor phosphorus status. The contribution of EcM fungi to apatite weathering was estimated by using rare earth elements ( REE) as marker elements. The concentration of REE was 10 times higher in EcM roots, which had grown in contact with the outer surface of apatite-amended mesh bags than in EcM roots grown in contact with the biotite amended or sand-filled mesh bags. In a laboratory study, it was confirmed that REE accumulated in the roots with very low amounts (<1 %) translocated to the shoots. The short-term effect of EcM mycelium on the elemental composition of biotite and apatite was investigated and compared with biotite- and apatite-amended mesh bags buried in trenched soil plots, which were free from EcM fungi. The mesh bags subjected to EcM fungi showed no difference in chemical composition after 17 months in the field. This study suggests that trees respond to phosphorus limitation by increased exploitation of phosphorus-containing minerals by ectomycorrhiza. However, the potential to ameliorate potassium limitation in a similar way appears to be low.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-290
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch