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Mycorrhizae and forest ecosystems

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Mycorrhizae play an important role in regulating patterns of energy and nutrient flux in terrestrial ecosystems. To conceptualize this role I develop the theory behind a simple index of the efficiency of soil resource acquisition by plant root systems (E). The morphological, physiological and demographic characteristics of mycorrhizae that define E appear to vary with environment and with plant community composition. This theory is elaborated with examples drawn from forest ecology literature. Some inconsistencies among observations of fine root dynamics are particularly revealing: (1) belowground carbon allocation vs soil fertility; (2) causes of root mortality; (3) root longevity vs decomposition rates. A comprehensive theory of mycorrhizal and ecosystem dynamics must await resolution of these inconsistencies and better quantitative information on mycorrhizal features affecting E.

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Fahey, T.J. Mycorrhizae and forest ecosystems. Mycorrhiza 1, 83–89 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00206141

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Key words

  • Fine roots
  • Physiology
  • Morphology
  • Demography