EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Determining the relevance of common mycelial networks in the nitrogen nutrition of plants adapted to semi-arid ecosystems

Alberto Andrino1, Asunción Morte2, Francisco Arenas2, Aline Figueiredo1, Leopold Sauheitl1, Alfonso Navarro2, Ángel L. Guarnizo2, Georg Guggenberger1, and Jens Boy1
Alberto Andrino et al.
  • 1Institute of Soil Science, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
  • 2Departamento de Biología Vegetal (Botánica), Facultad de Biología, CEIR Campus Mare Nostrum

Plants in semi-arid environments have adapted to scarce nitrogen (N) resources by becoming more efficient at using and taking it up, or by relying on symbiotic organisms. Common mycelial/mycorrhizal networks (CMNs) may help plants access and assist to a spatio-temporal redistribution of resources in soil. While CMNs have been extensively investigated in temperate forests and grasslands, their importance in semi-arid environments is still uncertain. This study evaluates the existence and importance of CMNs in N translocation in semiarid environments, using Helianthemmum almeriense as the host plant mycorrhized with Terfezia claveryi. We hypothesize that the presence of CMNs is a response mechanism to N scarcity due to soil heterogeneity. Through this mechanism, host plants and mycorrhizal fungi provide redistribution of N, playing a determinant role at all spatial scales, from the facilitation of seedling establishment to the persistence and coexistence of different plant communities. To test our hypothesis, we designed a mesocosm that allowed only hyphae to cross into an adjacent compartment. Three different tests were used to assess the existence and directionality of CMN. In the first test (T1), an adult plant was labeled with 15N and on the other side, only unlabeled soil was present. In this way, we could check if the mycorrhizal fungus tends to homogenously distribute the 15N to places where there is no other plant. In the second test (T2) we had an adult plant and in the adjacent compartment, four-week-old seedlings that were already mycorrhized with mycelium coming from the compartment with the adult plant. In this case, the 15N marker was applied where the adult plant was located, and we checked whether there was a transfer of 15N to the seedlings. In T3, we used a set of mesocosms equal to T2, but this time 15N was applied on the side where the seedlings were located. The idea was to determine whether the distribution of the 15N was proportional to the size of the plant that could receive it. The three types of mesocosms were sampled before labeling (day 0), 7 and 14 days after labeling. Our results reveal that 15N translocation to adjacent compartments occurred in all three tests, but in significantly different amounts. The translocation of 15N was significantly higher in those tests where there was a plant in the adjacent compartment (Tests 2 and 3) compared to T1. We also found that the contribution (%) of 15N to the total plant N pool was significantly higher for one-month-old seedlings in both T2 and T3, compared to adult plants. Under controlled greenhouse conditions, we have shown that the mycelium seems to act as an effective hub for N translocation, but we have not found the amounts transferred under our experimental conditions to be nutritionally remarkable. Our results should be further evaluated under natural conditions, to verify whether this N transfer has a greater nutritional significance than that found under controlled conditions, and also whether this CMN may play a more important role in signaling between plants adapted to semi-arid regions.

How to cite: Andrino, A., Morte, A., Arenas, F., Figueiredo, A., Sauheitl, L., Navarro, A., Guarnizo, Á. L., Guggenberger, G., and Boy, J.: Determining the relevance of common mycelial networks in the nitrogen nutrition of plants adapted to semi-arid ecosystems, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15191,, 2023.