Dark septate root endophytic fungi increase growth of Scots pine seedlings under elevated CO2 through enhanced nitrogen use efficiency.

Alberton, O.; Kuyper, T.W.; Summerbell, R.C.


Although increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are predicted to have substantial impacts on plant growth and functioning of ecosystems, there is insufficient understanding of the responses of belowground processes to such increases. We investigated the effects of different dark septate root endophytic (DSE) fungi on growth and nutrient acquisition by Pinus sylvestris seedlings under conditions of N limitation and at ambient and elevated CO2 (350 or 700 µ1 CO2 l-1). Each seedling was inoculated with one of the following species: Phialocephala fortinii (two strains), Cadophora finlandica, Chloridium paucisporum, Scytalidium vaccinii, Meliniomyces variabilis and M. vraolstadiae. The trial lasted 125 days. During the final 27 days, the seedlings were labeled with 14CO2 and 15NH4+. We measured extraradical hyphal length, internal colonization, plant biomass, 14C allocation, and plant N and 15N content. Under elevated CO2, the biomass of seedlings inoculated with DSE fungi was on average 17% higher than in control seedlings. Simultaneously, below-ground respiration doubled or trebled, and as a consequence carbon use efficiency by the DSE fungi significantly decreased. Shoot N concentration decreased on average by 57% under elevated CO2 and was lowest in seedlings inoculated with S. vaccinii. Carbon gain by the seedlings despite reduced shoot N concentration indicates that DSE fungi increase plant nutrient use efficiency and are therefore more beneficial to the plant under elevated CO2