Do plants drive podzolization via rock-eating mycorrhizal fungi?

N. van Breemen, U.S. Lundstr"m, A.G. Jongmans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Weathering and supply of nutrients derived from minerals to plants is known to be stimulated by plant symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi. Nutrients are generally thought to pass the bulk soil solution before plant uptake. Jongmans et al. [Jongmans, A.G., van Breemen, N., Lundstrom, U.S., van Hees, P.A.W., Finlay, R.D., Srinivasan, M., Unestam, T., Giesler, R., Melkerud, P.-A., Olsson, M., 1997. Rock-eating fungi. Nature, 389, 682-683] showed that (ectomycorrhizal) fungi drill innumerable narrow cylindrical pores (diameter 3-10 m) into weatherable minerals in podzol E horizons. The fungi probably form micropores by exuding strongly complexing low-molecular weight organic acids at their hyphal tips, causing highly local dissolution of Al silicates. Micropores occurred in all thin sections of podzols under Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies available from Sweden (3), Finland (2), Switzerland (2), Denmark (2) and the Netherlands (3), but not in the few available thin sections of non-podzolic soils under broadleaves. Many weatherable minerals in the podzol E horizon appeared to be perforated, as opposed to few if any in the abruptly underlying B horizon, suggesting a link to podzolization. High concentrations of Al and Si in organic surface horizons under boreal and temperate conifers can be explained by transfer by hypha of weathering products from the minerals to mycorrhizal roots in the O horizon, followed by release of weathering products that are not taken up by the plants. Rock-eating ectomycorrhizal fungi suggest a more direct role for plants in podzolization than hitherto realized, providing tight coupling between podzolization and mineral weathering. Preliminary observations, however, indicate that mycorrhizal fungi do not play a role in podzolization under Kauri (Agathis australis) in New Zealand.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-171
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • podzolic soils
  • soil formation
  • soil fungi


Dive into the research topics of 'Do plants drive podzolization via rock-eating mycorrhizal fungi?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this