Mahmoudi, N., Dias, T., Mahdhi, M., Cruz, C., Mars, M. & Caeiro, M.F. (2020) Does arbuscular mycorrhiza determine soil microbial functionality in nutrient-limited Mediterranean arid ecosystems?Diversity, 12(6), 234. DOI:10.3390/d12060234 (IF2020 2,465; Q3 Ecology)
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are determinant for the performance of plant communities and for the functionality of terrestrial ecosystems. In natural ecosystems, grazing can have a major impact on mycorrhizal fungi and consequently on plant growth. The objective of this study was to evaluate the statements referred above in Mediterranean arid areas in Tunisia. Root samples and rhizosphere soils of five dominant herbaceous plants were studied at six distinct arid sites differing on soil proprieties and grazing intensity. At each site, chemical and dynamic properties of the soil were characterized as well as the AMF colonization intensity and the soil functionality. Results showed that the mycorrhizal frequency and intensity and spore density, varied between plants in the same site and, for each plant, between sites and evidenced a positive effect of mycorrhized plants on soil microbial activity. Grazing and soil properties strongly affected AMF composition and the soil microbial and biochemical dynamics, which presented the lowest values at the sites with the highest grazing intensities. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that AMF improve soil biological properties, supporting the hypothesis that mycorrhiza and grazing compete for plant photosynthates, and highlight the importance of mycorrhizal symbiosis towards soil functionality under arid conditions.