Climate change influences mycorrhizal fungal-plant interactions, but conclusions are limited by geographical study bias

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Alison E. Bennett
  • Aimee T. Classen

Climate change is altering the interactions among plants and soil organisms in ways that will alter the structure and function of ecosystems. We reviewed the literature and developed a map of studies focused on how the three most common types of mycorrhizal fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizal [AM], ectomycorrhizal [EcM], and ericoid mycorrhizal [ErM] fungi) respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (eCO(2)), climatic warming, and changes in the distribution of precipitation. Broadly, we ask how do mycorrhizal fungi respond to climate change, how do these responses vary by fungal type, and how do mycorrhizal traits influence plant adaptation, movement, or extinction in response to climatic change? First, we found that 92% of studies were conducted in the northern hemisphere, and plant host, ecosystem type and study location were only correlated with each other in the northern hemisphere because studies across all mycorrhizal fungal types were only common in the northern hemisphere. Second, we show that temperature and rainfall variability had more variable effects than eCO(2) on mycorrhizal fungal structures, but these effects were context dependent. Third, while mycorrhizal fungal types vary in their responses to climate change, it appears that warming leads to more variable responses in ectomycorrhizal than in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Finally, we discuss common traits of mycorrhizal fungi that could aid in fungal and plant adaption to climate change. We posit that mycorrhizal fungi can buffer plant hosts against extinction risk, they can facilitate or retard the dispersal success of plants moving away from poor environments, and, by buffering host plants, they can enable host plant adaptation to new climates. All of these influences are, however, context dependent a finding that reflects the complex traits of mycorrhizal fungi as a group, the diversity of plant species they associate with and the variation in ecosystems in which they reside. Overall, while we point out many gaps in our understanding of the influence of climate changes on mycorrhizal fungi, we also highlight the large number of opportunities for researching plant and mycorrhizal fungal responses to and mitigation of climate changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number02978
Issue number4
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2020

    Research areas

  • climate changes, ecosystems, elevated carbon dioxide, mycorrhizal fungi, plants, precipitation change, warming, SOIL CARBON POOLS, GLOBAL CHANGE, COMMUNITY COMPOSITION, ECOSYSTEM RESPONSES, ROOT COLONIZATION, ATMOSPHERIC CO2, WARMING ALTERS, FOREST, PHOSPHORUS, DIFFERENTIATION

ID: 247337863