Possible role of ectomycorrhizal fungi in cycling of aluminium in podzols

Smits, M.M.; Hoffland, E.


Budget studies in boreal podzols indicate a considerable upward transport of aluminium (Al) from the mineral soil into the organic horizon. In this paper we studied if ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi can be involved in this upward transport via their extramatrical hyphae. We tested the use of gallium (Ga) as proxy for Al. Transport of Al through EcM hyphae was studied in vitro in a two-compartment Petri dish system. Two of the five fungal isolates tested transported Al. Using Ga instead of Al revealed the same trend in these systems, confirming the use of Ga as proxy for Al. Upward transport of Ga was studied in an artificial podzol. Pinus sylvestris seedlings were colonised by a natural community of EcM fungi from fresh forest soil. Gallium addition to the mineral soil led to increased Ga content in roots in the organic horizon and in the shoot. Upward Ga allocation was significantly higher when roots were excluded from the mineral soil by a mesh, only allowing fungal mycelium to grow through. We conclude that at least some EcM fungi transport Al and that Ga, and probably also Al, can be transported upwards by EcM fungal hyphae in a podzol system. These findings support the hypothesis that EcM fungi play a role in upward transport of Al in podzols