Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can form complex networks in the soil that connect different host plants. Previous studies have focused on the effects of these networks on individual hosts and host communities. However, very little is known about how different host species affect the success of the fungal network itself. Given the potentially strong selection pressure against hosts that invest in a fungal network which benefits their competitors, we predict that the presence of multiple host species negatively affects the growth of the extraradical network. We designed an experiment using an in vitro culture approach to investigate the effect of different hosts (carrot, chichory and medicago) on the formation of a common mycelial network. In vitro root cultures, each inoculated with their own fungal network, were grown in a double split plate design with two host compartments and a common central compartment where fungal networks could form. We found that the size of fungal networks differs depending on the social environment of the host. When host species were propagated in a mixed species environment, the fungal abundance was significantly reduced compared to monoculture predictions. Our work demonstrates how host-to-host conflict can influence the abundance of the fungal partner.
|Publication status||Published - 2015|