Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi shape the adaptive strategy of plants by mediating nutrient acquisition in a shrub-dominated community in the Mu Us Desert

  • Yangui Qiao
  • Yuxuan Bai
  • Yuqing ZhangEmail author
  • Weiwei She
  • Zongrui Lai
  • Shugao Qin
Regular Article



Whether Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) influence community composition by changing plant adaptation to resource limitation remains unclear. This study examined how AMF affect the biodiversity and functional traits of plant functional groups in a shrub-dominated community in Mu Us Desert.


In a field experiment, mycorrhizae were suppressed via benomyl to address how AMF alter the adaptive strategy of plants and community structure in a shrub-dominated community. The relationship between nutrient acquisition and proxies of growth and reproduction of dominant plant functional groups (shrubs and perennial grasses) were determined using a structure equation model.


The diversity and aboveground biomass of plant functional groups were not affected by benomyl treatment. Shrubs’ vegetative biomass responded negatively to AMF owing to the nitrogen (N) limitation induced by phosphorous (P) increase, whereas a positive response in reproduction was related to foliar carbon (C) accumulation for drought tolerance. The abundance and height of perennial grasses varied with AMF, and it was correlated with foliar P and N contents.


Different local adaptive strategies of shrubs and perennial grasses were associated with AMF through the regulation of plant nutrient acquisition. The link between AMF and plant adaptation highlights a potential mechanism underlying plant community dynamics in the resource-limited desert ecosystem.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Artemisia ordosica Plant community structure Growth and reproduction Plant tissue stoichiometry 



Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi


Aboveground net primary productivity


Annual species




Current-year twig




Non-metric multidimensional scaling


Operational taxonomic unit




Perennial forbs


Perennial grasses


Structure equation model



This study was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant no. 2016YFC0500905), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 31800611), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant no. 2015ZCQ-SB-02). We would like to thank Shijun Liu, Jie Fu, Liang Liu, and Yongqi Sun for their help with field work.

Data availability

The raw sequences datasets generated during the current study were submitted to the NCBI repository ( and are accessible in the BioProject PRJNA540163.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4253_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 34069 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yangui Qiao
    • 1
  • Yuxuan Bai
    • 1
  • Yuqing Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Weiwei She
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zongrui Lai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shugao Qin
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Yanchi Research Station, School of Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of State Forestry Administration on Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Engineering Research Center of Forestry Ecological Engineering, Ministry of EducationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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