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Arid areas are characterized by a seasonal climate with a long dry period. In such stressful
environment, resource availability is driven by longterm and shorterm rainfall pulses.
Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi enhance access to moisture and nutrients and thereby
influence plant performance. In this dissertation I applied field observations and
greenhouse experiments to address four questions: 1) What are the major environmental
factors influencing AM incidence in the Boswellia-dominated dry deciduous woodlands?
2) How do Boswellia seedlings respond when they are exposed to AM fungi and water
pulses? 3) How do AM fungi, water deficit and soil fertility influence the growth and gas
exchange of Boswellia and Acacia seedlings? 4) Does the AM symbiosis influence
competition between Acacia and Boswellia seedlings at different water pulse levels?
The present study showed that almost all woodland plants in northern Ethiopia are
colonized by AM fungi. Root colonization levels in dry and wet seasons demonstrated that
in the sites with the harshest conditions, AM plants and fungi respond to pulsed resource
availability by temporally disconnecting carbon gain by the plant and carbon expenditure
by the fungus. Consequently, we studied below-ground processes in conferring adaptation
to highly pulsed resources in Boswellia seedlings. The strong interactive AM fungi and
water pulse showed that mycorrhizal Boswellia benefits from drought pulses during the
short rainy season. Boswellia acquires carbon and water after rain events and store
probably carbon and water in coarse roots, suggesting conservative strategy. From this
observation we carried out an experiment to test whether other trees (Acacias) than
Boswellia in this habitat also show this conservative acquisition strategy, or whether more
acquisitive strategies may also be beneficial under such climates.
My study show that acquisitive and conservative species both benefit from the AM
symbiosis, but that the acquisitive Acacias mainly benefit at higher water availability,
whereas the conservative Boswellia benefits at water or nutrient-stressed conditions. I also
investigate on how mycorrhiza and water availability affect competition between plants
with different resource acquisition strategies in these drylands. Seedlings of Boswellia are
competitively inferior to seedlings of Acacia, and neither the presence of AM fungi nor a
stronger water limitation (through pulsing) affected this outcome.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||14 Sep 2011|
|Place of Publication||[S.l.]|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|
- vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizas
- water availability
- water stress