COS 119-4 - Comparing the effectiveness of native and commercial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in establishing and colonizing plants in an urban prairie restoration

Thursday, August 11, 2011: 2:30 PM
18C, Austin Convention Center
Sarah C. Richardson1, Corey E. Palmer2, Stephanie Hughes1, Elizabeth L. Middleton3, James D. Bever4, Peggy A. Schultz4 and Zhanna Yermakov5, (1)Environmental Sciences Program, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, (2)Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, (3)Resource Science, Missouri Department of Conservation, Clinton, MO, (4)Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, (5)Department of Natural Resources, Chicago Parks Department, Chicago, IL

Most of the original tallgrass prairie in the Midwest has been lost, but prairie restorations are limited in diversity of plants in comparison with remnant prairies. Restoring mutualistic soil microbes may increase success of prairie restorations. A new prairie habitat was designed as an experiment investigating whether adding mycorrhizal fungi to soil improves survival and growth of prairie plants in a restoration. Seedlings of four species of prairie plants were transplanted that had been grown with one of three types of inoculum (uninoculated soil, fungi from a remnant prairie, or commercial mycorrhizal fungi). To investigate whether mycorrhizal fungi spread into the restoration from the inoculated plants, uninoculated Sporobolus heterolepis were planted at different distances alongside inoculated plants. Concentrations of carbon and nitrogen in soil were assessed at different distances from inoculated plants to determine whether inoculum treatments affected soil nutrients.


In the first year of this long-term study, native prairie fungi increased growth and survival of several species of inoculated prairie plants. Native prairie fungi also spread into the habitat and increased growth of neighboring Sporobolus heterolepis that had been planted as uninoculated “test” plants. The fungi did not affect concentrations of carbon or nitrogen in the soil in the first year of the study. Future work will determine whether mycorrhizal fungi increasingly colonize plots and whether soil nutrients are affected by inoculum in later years.

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