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Volume 98, Issue 8 p. 2111-2119
Article

Beyond nutrients: a meta-analysis of the diverse effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on plants and soils

Camille S. Delavaux

Corresponding Author

Camille S. Delavaux

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 06511 USA

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, 2101 Constant Avenue, Lawrence, Kansas, 66047 USA

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Lauren M. Smith-Ramesh

Lauren M. Smith-Ramesh

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 06511 USA

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, 37996 USA

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Sara E. Kuebbing

Sara E. Kuebbing

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 06511 USA

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First published: 13 May 2017
Citations: 171
Corresponding Editor: Bitty A. Roy.

Abstract

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can increase plant fitness under certain environmental conditions. Among the mechanisms that may drive this mutualism, the most studied is provisioning of nutrients by AMF in exchange for carbon from plant hosts. However, AMF may also provide a suite of non-nutritional benefits to plants including improved water uptake, disease resistance, plant chemical defense, soil aggregation, and allelochemical transport and protection. Here, we use a meta-analysis of 93 studies to assess the relative effect of AMF on nutritional and non-nutritional factors that may influence plant fitness. We find that the positive effects of AMF on soil aggregation, water flow and disease resistance are equal to the effect of AMF on plant nitrogen and phosphorus uptake. However, AMF had no effect on the uptake of other nutrients, plant water content, allelopathic transport or production of chemical defense compounds. We suggest future research directions, including experimentally assessing the relative contribution on plant fitness of AMF interactions by untangling the independence of alternative benefits of AMF from an increase in nutrient uptake. This will lead to a more holistic view of the mycorrhizal-plant association and a more accurate picture of the net impact on the plant or plant community in question.