Tropical Ecology

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 350–361 | Cite as

Impacts of core rotation, defaunation and nitrogen addition on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, microorganisms and microarthropods in a tropical montane rainforest

  • Laura M. Sánchez-GalindoEmail author
  • Tessa Camenzind
  • Mark Maraun
  • Stefan Scheu
Research Article


In tropical ecosystems, interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and other organisms have been little studied, but may be of significant importance for understanding the role of AMF in decomposition processes and nutrient cycling. In this study, we used ingrowth cores to investigate the impacts of regular rotation of the cores, defaunation and nitrogen addition on AMF, microbial biomass and microarthropods in the fermentation/humus (F/H) and litter (L) layers of an Ecuadorian montane tropical rainforest. AMF were substantially reduced in the F/H layer (to 34% of initial), while in the L layer they remained constant during the experiment. Overall, microorganisms and microarthropods were largely independent of AMF hyphae and their exudates, however, defaunation strongly affected the recovery of their communities. Nitrogen addition increased the quality of litter material and beneficially affected microbial communities thereby increasing decomposition rates, but did not impact AMF abundance and microarthropod communities. These findings suggest that the cutoff of the carbon supply from the plant to the fungal mycelium was not compensated by switching resources in the F/H layer, underlining a strong association between AMF and living roots. While in the L layer, AMF likely competed with saprotrophic microorganisms for litter-derived resources at intermediate stages of decomposition pointing to indirect contributions of AMF to decomposition processes. Overall, the results support the view that root-derived resources are important in fueling soil food webs, but also indicate that in the studied montane rainforest these resources are only available close to roots and not channeled distant to roots via AMF.


Acari Collembola Organic layer Oribatid mites Root-derived resources Saprotrophic fungi 



We would like to thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG FOR816) for financial support. Further, we thank the Ministerio de Ambiente del Ecuador and the Universidad Técnico Particular de Loja (UTPL) for the research permits and the center Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional (NCI) to allow us to work in the San Francisco reserve. We thank Miguel Velez Espinoza for his collaboration during the field work and Odette Gonzalez Macé for helpful comments.

Supplementary material

42965_2019_38_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (134 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 133 kb)


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© International Society for Tropical Ecology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, University of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biology, Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Centre of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use, University of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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