Colonization-competition tradeoffs as a mechanism driving successional dynamics in ectomycorrhizal fungal communities

Peter G. Kennedy, Logan M. Higgins, Rachel H. Rogers, Marjorie G. Weber

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51 Scopus citations


Colonization-competition tradeoffs have been shown to be important determinants of succession in plant and animal communities, but their role in ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal communities is not well understood. To experimentally examine whether strong spore-based competitors remain dominant on plant root tips as competition shifts to mycelial-based interactions, we investigated the mycelial competitive interactions among three naturally co-occurring ECM species (Rhizopogon occidentalis, R. salebrosus, and Suillus pungens). Each species was grown alone and in all pair-wise combinations on P. muricata seedlings in experimental microcosms and culture assays. Competitive outcomes were assessed from ECM root tip colonization, soil mycelial abundance, and mycelial growth in culture. In the microcosm experiment, we observed a clear competitive hierarchy of R. salebrosus>R. occidentalis>S. pungens. Competitive effects were also apparent in the culture assays, however, no similar hierarchy was present. These results contrast with our previous findings from spore-based competition, suggesting that ECM competitive outcomes can be life-stage dependent. The differing competitive abilities observed here also showed general correspondence with patterns of ECM succession in Pinus muricata forests, indicating that competitive interactions may significantly influence temporal patterns of ECM community structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25126
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 19 2011


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