Feldspar tunneling by Fungi along natural productivity gradients

Hoffland, E.; Giesler, R.; Jongmans, A.G.; Breemen, N. van


Recently, it was hypothesized that ectomycorrhizas hyphae are involved in mineral tunneling. We evaluated the role of ectomycorrhizas in mineral weathering and the ecosystem influx of basic cations by correlating mineral tunnel density to ectomycorrhizas density in two forest productivity gradients. The gradients, two gentle slopes in northern Sweden, are the result of groundwater movement and are characterized by reduced productivity upslope due to lower nitrogen availability. As expected, ectomycorrhizas density in the O horizon was higher upslope, where nitrogen availability was lower and where the vegetation was dominated by ectomycorrhizas plant species. We consistently found that tunnel formation in mineral grains was more intense in nutrient-poor sites, indicating a higher contribution of fungi to ecosystem influx of potassium and calcium. ectomycorrhizas density was positively correlated with feldspar tunnel density in the upper 2 cm of the E horizon. This suggests that ectomycorrhizas are involved in mineral tunneling. We discuss the possible involvement of cricoid mycorrhizas and saprotrophic fungi in feldspar tunneling and the role of the weathering status of mineral grains as additional factors controlling mineral funneling.