Codependency between plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities: what is the evidence?

V. Kokkoris, Y. Lekberg, P.M. Antunes, C. Fahey, J.A. Fordyce, S.N. Kivlin, M.M. Hart

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


© 2020 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2020 New Phytologist TrustThat arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi covary with plant communities is clear, and many papers report nonrandom associations between symbiotic partners. However, these studies do not test the causal relationship, or ‘codependency’, whereby the composition of one guild affects the composition of the other. Here we outline underlying requirements for codependency, compare important drivers for both plant and AM fungal communities, and assess how host preference – a pre-requisite for codependency – changes across spatiotemporal scales and taxonomic resolution for both plants and AM fungi. We find few examples in the literature designed to test for codependency and those that do have been conducted within plots or mesocosms. Also, while plants and AM fungi respond similarly to coarse environmental filters, most variation remains unexplained, with host identity explaining less than 30% of the variation in AM fungal communities. These results combined question the likelihood of predictable co-occurrence, and therefore evolution of codependency, between plant and AM fungal taxa across locations. We argue that codependency is most likely to occur in homogeneous environments where specific plant – AM fungal pairings have functional consequences for the symbiosis. We end by outlining critical aspects to consider moving forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-838
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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