Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plants are essential components of ecosystem functioning; however, they remain poorly known in dry ecosystems. We examined the relationship between seven shrub species and their associated AMF community in a semi-arid plant community in southern Spain. Soil characteristics and plant physiological status were measured and related to AMF community composition and genetic diversity by multivariate statistics. We found differences in AMF communities in soils under shrubs and in gaps among them, whereas no differences were detected among AMF communities colonizing roots. Soil nutrients content drove most of the spatial variations in the AMF community and genetic diversity. AMF communities were more heterogeneous in fertile islands with low nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio and vice versa. AMF genetic diversity increased in soils limited by phosphorus and with high soil organic matter content, while AMF genetic diversity increased in roots growing in soil not limited by phosphorus. Overall, we could not find a clear link between plant performance and the associated AMF community. Our findings show that different shrub species generate islands of fertility which differ in nutrient content and, therefore, support different AMF communities, increasing AMF diversity at the landscape level.
- AMF genetic diversity
- Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) distribution
- Mediterranean shrub species
- Soil nutrients
- Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP)