J Exp Bot 2005 Jul 31;56(417):1751-60. Epub 2005 May 31.
School of Biological Sciences, Cruickshank Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB31 5TR, UK.
In many semi-natural and natural ecosystems, mycorrhizal fungi are the most abundant and functionally important group of soil micro-organisms. They are almost wholly dependent on their host plants to supply them with photosynthate in return for which they enable the plant to access greater quantities of nutrients. Thus, there is considerable potential for plant communities to regulate the structure and function of mycorrhizal communities. This paper reviews some of the key recent developments that have enabled the influence of plant species richness, composition, and age on mycorrhizal communities in boreal forests and temperate grassland to be determined. It discusses the emerging evidence that, in some situations, plant species richness is related to mycorrhizal species richness, in contrast to previous thinking. The paper also includes some preliminary data on the effect of host stand age on root-associated basidiomycete communities. It concludes by highlighting some of the new methodological advances that promise to unravel the linkages between mycorrhizal diversity and their function in situ.