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Biology of Dryland Plants

Haskins, Kristin [1].

Mycorrhizal dynamics with global change in arid ecosystems.

Host plant responses to limited water availability are expected to vary under the different scenarios predicted by global climate change models. Water availability is already an important factor in determining plant community structure in many arid and semi-arid environments and the IPCC has predicted increased drought occurrence for many of these regions. Mycorrhizal associations that host plants form with soil fungi can provide benefits that reduce host plant stress in times of drought or water stress. However, mycorrhizal fungi can be affected directly by drought stress as well as indirectly through impacts on their host plants. Understanding ecosystem responses in semi-arid and arid environments will in part depend on the dynamics of mycorrhizal symbioses. This talk will focus on how mycorrhizas function in the environment, the role of mycorrhizas in host plant establishment, growth and survival in arid ecosystems, and the changes that mycorrhizal associations may incur under current climate change predictions. Data from the literature will be reviewed and recent studies from northern Arizona, USA will be highlighted. These latter studies demonstrate that drought causes significant interspecific plant competition and tree mortality that is associated with reductions in the abundance and diversity of mycorrhizal fungi. These reductions in mycorrhizal symbionts in turn result in lower levels of fungal inoculum in the soil and poorer seedling performance. These studies and the broad literature review emphasize the importance and widespread occurrence of mycorrhizal root symbioses in determining host plant community structure in semi-arid and arid environments.

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1 - Northern Arizona University, Department of Biological Sciences, P.O. Box 5640, Flagstaff, Arizona, 86011-5640, USA

global climate change
arid environments
tree mortality

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: 41-7
Location: Salon K - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
Time: 10:30 AM
Abstract ID:59

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