Context-dependency of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on plant-insect interactions in an agroecosystem.

N.A. Barber, E.T. Kiers, R.V. Hazzard, L.S. Adler

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    Plants interact with a variety of other community members that have the potential to indirectly influence each other through a shared host plant. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are generally considered plant mutualists because of their generally positive effects on plant nutrient status and growth. AMF may also have important indirect effects on plants by altering interactions with other community members. By influencing plant traits, AMF can modify aboveground interactions with both mutualists, such as pollinators, and antagonists, such as herbivores. Because herbivory and pollination can dramatically influence plant fitness, comprehensive assessment of plant-AMF interactions should include these indirect effects. To determine how AMF affect plant-insect interactions, we grew Cucumis sativus (Cucurbitaceae) under five AMF inoculum treatments and control. We measured plant growth, floral production, flower size, and foliar nutrient content of half the plants, and transferred the other half to a field setting to measure pollinator and herbivore preference of wild insects. Mycorrhizal treatment had no effect on plant biomass or floral traits but significantly affected leaf nutrients, pollinator behavior, and herbivore attack. Although total pollinator visitation did not vary with AMF treatment, pollinators exhibited taxon-specific responses, with honey bees, bumble bees, and Lepidoptera all responding differently to AMF treatments. Flower number and size were unaffected by treatments, suggesting that differences in pollinator preference were driven by other floral traits. Mycorrhizae influenced leaf K and Na, but these differences in leaf nutrients did not correspond to variation in herbivore attack. Overall, we found that AMF indirectly influence both antagonistic and mutualistic insects, but impacts depend on the identity of both the fungal partner and the interacting insect, underscoring the context-dependency of plant-AMF interactions. © 2013 Barber, Kiers, Haz-zard and Adler.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number338
    JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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