Spatial structure within root systems moderates stability of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal mutualism and plant-soil feedbacks
Hopkins, Jacob; Richardson, Sarah; Bever, James (2022), Spatial structure within root systems moderates stability of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal mutualism and plant-soil feedbacks, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s1rn8pk8z
The persistence of mutualisms is paradoxical, as there are fitness incentives for exploitation. This is particularly true for plant-microbe mutualisms like arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM), which are promiscuously, horizontally-transmitted. Preferential allocation by hosts to the best mutualist can stabilize horizontal mutualisms, however preferential allocation is imperfect, with its fidelity likely depending upon the spatial structure of symbionts in plant roots. In this study, we tested AM mutualisms’ dependence on two dimensions of spatial structure: the initial dispersion of fungi and the ease of fungal dispersal, through three complementary experiments. We found that fitness of the beneficial AM fungus increased when fungi were initially separate, while initial spatial mixing benefited the fitness of the non-beneficial fungus. These effects were strongest when dispersal was limited, and hosts could discriminate. Additionally, we found that spatial structure moderated changes in AM fungal composition produced differential feedbacks on plant growth. Our results identify symbiont spatial structure within plant roots as an important modifier of plant preferential allocation and the dynamics of mycorrhizal mutualisms, with cascading effects on plant communities.
National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-0919434
National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1050237
National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1556664