We performed a landscape-scale investigation to compare the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) communities between grasslands and farmlands in the farming-pastoral ecotone of northern China. AMF richness and community composition were examined with 454 pyrosequencing. Structural equation modelling (SEM) and multivariate analyses were applied to disentangle the direct and indirect effects (mediated by multiple environmental factors) of land use on AMF. Land use conversion from grassland to farmland significantly reduced AMF richness and extraradical hyphal length density, and these land use types also differed significantly in AMF community composition. SEM showed that the effects of land use on AMF richness and hyphal length density in soil were primarily mediated by available phosphorus and soil structural quality. Soil texture was the strongest predictor of AMF community composition. Soil carbon, nitrogen and soil pH were also significantly correlated with AMF community composition, indicating that these abiotic variables could be responsible for some of the community composition differences among sites. Our study shows that land use has a partly predictable effect on AMF communities across this ecologically relevant area of China, and indicates that high soil phosphorus concentrations and poor soil structure are particularly detrimental to AMF in this fragile ecosystem.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are ubiquitous symbionts of higher plants in terrestrial ecosystems, while the occurrence of the AM symbiosis is influenced by a complex set of abiotic and biotic factors. To reveal the regional distribution pattern of AM fungi as driven by multiple environmental factors, and to understand the ecological importance of AM fungi in natural ecosystems, we conducted a field investigation on AM fungal abundance along environmental gradients in the arid and semi-arid grasslands of northern China. In addition to plant parameters recorded in situ, soil samples were collected, and soil chemo-physical and biological parameters were measured in the lab. Statistical analyses were performed to reveal the relative contribution of climatic, edaphic and vegetation factors to AM fungal abundance, especially for extraradical hyphal length density (HLD) in the soil. The results indicated that HLD were positively correlated with mean annual temperature (MAT), soil clay content and soil pH, but negatively correlated with both soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil available N. The multiple regressions and structural equation model showed that MAT was the key positive contributor and soil fertility was the key negative contributor to HLD. Furthermore, both the intraradical AM colonization (IMC) and relative abundance of AM fungi, which was quantified by real-time PCR assay, tended to decrease along the increasing SOC content. With regard to the obvious negative correlation between MAT and SOC in the research area, the positive correlation between MAT and HLD implied that AM fungi could potentially mitigate soil carbon losses especially in infertile soils under global warming. However, direct evidence from long-term experiments is still expected to support the AM fungal contribution to soil carbon pools.
The ectoparasitic dagger nematode (Xiphinema index), vector of Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV), provokes gall formation and can cause severe damage to the root system of grapevines. Mycorrhiza formation by Glomus (syn. Rhizophagus) intraradices BEG141 reduced both gall formation on roots of the grapevine rootstock SO4 (Vitis berlandieri×V. riparia) and nematode number in the surrounding soil. Suppressive effects increased with time and were greater when the nematode was post-inoculated rather than co-inoculated with the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus. Using a split-root system, decreased X. index development was shown in mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal parts of mycorrhizal root systems, indicating that both local and systemic induced bioprotection mechanisms were active against the ectoparasitic nematode. Expression analyses of ESTs (expressed sequence tags) generated in an SSH (subtractive suppressive hybridization) library, representing plant genes up-regulated during mycorrhiza-induced control of X. index, and of described grapevine defence genes showed activation of chitinase 1b, pathogenesis-related 10, glutathione S-transferase, stilbene synthase 1, 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3-phosphate synthase, and a heat shock proein 70-interacting protein in association with the observed local and/or systemic induced bioprotection against the nematode. Overall, the data suggest priming of grapevine defence responses by the AM fungus and transmission of a plant-mediated signal to non-mycorrhizal tissues. Grapevine gene responses during AM-induced local and systemic bioprotection against X. index point to biological processes that are related either to direct effects on the nematode or to protection against nematode-imposed stress to maintain root tissue integrity.
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