Mycorrhizal fungi reduce the negative effects of nitrogen enrichment on plant community structure in dune grassland.

M.G.A. van der Heijden, S. Verkade, S.J. de Bruin

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Nitrogen (N) inputs to ecosystems have increased worldwide, often leading to large changes in plant community structure and reducing plant diversity. Yet, the interaction of increased N availability with other factors that determine plant community composition, are still poorly understood. Here, we test whether the impact of N addition on plant communities depends on the presence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF are widespread plant symbionts that facilitate growth of many plant species. We hypothesize that AM fungi reduce the negative impact of N addition on plant communities by supporting growth of species that are sensitive to N enrichment.We established experimental grassland microcosms consisting of 18 plant species. These microcosms were subjected to high and low N supply and were inoculated with AMF or remained nonmycorrhizal. Both N addition and AMF had a big impact on plant community composition, but with opposite effects. N addition induced a 2.8-fold increase in grass biomass and reduced legume biomass. Grasses dominated the microcosms at high N supply, especially when AMF were absent. In contrast, AMF enhanced biomass of all legumes species (on average 6.8-fold) and reduced the relative abundance of grasses. The proportion of legume biomass out of total shoot biomass at high N supply was 19% with AMF and only 3% without AMF. Our results show that responses of plant communities to N enrichment depend on AMF and that AMF can reduce the negative impact of increased N availability on plant community structure by reducing grass dominance. © 2008 The Authors Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2626-2635
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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