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Differential response of δ13C and water use efficiency to arbuscular mycorrhizal infection in two aridland woody plant species


During a revegetation field experiment in Southeast Spain, we measured foliar carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) and gas exchange parameters in order to evaluate the influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) infection on the water use efficiency (WUE) of two semiarid woodland species. WUE during drought was significantly enhanced by inoculation with Glomus intraradices in Olea europaea ssp sylvestris, but not in Rhamnus lycioides. While Olea is a long-lived, slow-growing evergreen tree with a conservative water use strategy, Rhamnus is a drought-deciduous shrub with a shorter lifespan; these differences may explain their dissimilar patterns of physiological response to inoculation with the same AM fungus. Differences in δ13C and WUE between Olea and Rhamnus were larger when comparing AM inoculated than non-inoculated seedlings. This result suggests that some of the interspecific variability in δ13C observed for aridland plant communities may be due to different physiological responses to mycorrhization.

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We thank Elvira Díaz and Dino Figueroa for their help with laboratory and field work. This research was partly supported by the EC-CICIY co-financed FEDER program (1FD97-0507 FOREST) and by the Biocomplexity program (DEB 9981548) of the US National Science Foundation. J.I.Q. acknowledges a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes.

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Correspondence to José Ignacio Querejeta.

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Querejeta, J.I., Barea, J.M., Allen, M.F. et al. Differential response of δ13C and water use efficiency to arbuscular mycorrhizal infection in two aridland woody plant species. Oecologia 135, 510–515 (2003).

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  • Water stress
  • Carbon isotope discrimination
  • Life form
  • Olea europaea
  • Rhamnus lyicioides