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Impact of restoration practices on mycorrhizal inoculum potential in a semi-arid riparian ecosystem

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Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, increasing nutrient and water availability to plants and improving soil stability. Mechanical disturbance of soil has been found to reduce mycorrhizal inoculum in soils, but findings have been inconsistent. To examine the

Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with plant roots, increasing nutrient and water availability to plants and improving soil stability. Mechanical disturbance of soil has been found to reduce mycorrhizal inoculum in soils, but findings have been inconsistent. To examine the impact of restoration practices on riparian mycorrhizal inoculum potential, soil samples were collected at the Tres Rios Ecosystem Restoration and Flood Control Project located at the confluence of the Salt, Gila, and Agua Fria rivers in central Arizona. The project involved the mechanical removal of invasive Tamarix spp.( tamarisk, salt cedar) and grading prior to revegetation. Soil samples were collected from three stages of restoration: pre-restoration, soil banks with chipped vegetation, and in areas that had been graded in preparation for revegetation. Bioassay plants were grown in the soil samples and roots analyzed for arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EM) infection percentages. Vegetations measurements were also taken for woody vegetation at the site. The mean number of AM and EM fungal propagules did not differ between the three treatment area, but inoculum levels did differ between AM and EM fungi with AM fungal propagules detected at moderate levels and EM fungi at very low levels. These differences may have been related to availability of host plants since AM fungi form associations with a variety of desert riparian forbs and grasses and EM fungi only form associations with Populus spp. and Salix spp. which were present at the site but at low density and canopy cover. Prior studies have also found that EM fungi may be more affected by tamarisk invasions than AM fungi. Our results were similar to other restoration projects for AM fungi suggesting that it may not be necessary to add AM fungi to soil prior to planting native vegetation because of the moderate presence of AM fungi even in soils dominated by tamarisk and exposed to soil disturbance during the restoration process. In contrast when planting trees that form EM associations, it may be beneficial to augment soil with EM fungi collected from riparian areas or to pre-inoculate plants prior to planting.

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2012