Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis and ecosystem processes: Prospects for future research in tropical soils


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are more widely distributed and can associate with a wide range of plant species. AMF are keystone organisms that form an interface between soils and plant roots. They are also sensitive to environmental changes. AMF are important microbial symbioses for plants under conditions of P-limitation. The AMF are crucial for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as they form symbiotic interactions with plants. Mycorrhizal fungi are known to influence plant diversity patterns in a variety of ecosystems globally. AMF hyphae form an extensive network in the soil. The length is a common parameter used to quantifying fungal hyphae. The mycelial network of AM fungi extends into the soil volume and greatly increases the surface area for the uptake of immobile nutrients. Also, AM symbioses improve plants tolerance to drought and enhance plants’ tolerance of or resistance to root pathogens. Also, the networks of AM hyphae play a crucial role in the formation of stable soil aggregates and in the building up of a macroporous structure of soil that allows penetration of water and air and thereby prevents erosion. The functioning of AMF symbiosis is mediated by direct and indirect effects of biotic and abiotic factors of the surrounding rhizosphere, the community, and the ecosystem. AMF have great potential in the restoration of disturbed land and low fertility soil. However, despite the importance of AMF to terrestrial ecosystems, little is known about the effects of environmental changes on AMF abundance, activity and the impact of these changes on the ecosystem services. Therefore, it is important to gain a clearer understanding of the effects of environmental changes on the AM fungal species to guide conservation and restoration efforts.

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Soka, G. and Ritchie, M. (2014) Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis and ecosystem processes: Prospects for future research in tropical soils. Open Journal of Ecology, 4, 11-22. doi: 10.4236/oje.2014.41002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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