The mycorrhizal tragedy of the commons

Henriksson, N., Franklin, O. ORCID:, Tarvainen, L., Marshall, J., Lundberg‐Felten, J., Eilertsen, L., Näsholm, T., & Selosse, M.‐A. (2021). The mycorrhizal tragedy of the commons. Ecology Letters 10.1111/ele.13737.

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Trees receive growth-limiting nitrogen from their ectomycorrhizal symbionts, but supplying the fungi with carbon can also cause nitrogen immobilization, which hampers tree growth. We present results from field and greenhouse experiments combined with mathematical modelling, showing that these are not conflicting outcomes. Mycorrhizal networks connect multiple trees, and we modulated C provision by strangling subsets of Pinus sylvestris trees, assuming that carbon supply to fungi was reduced proportionally to the strangled fraction. We conclude that trees gain additional nitrogen at the expense of their neighbours by supplying more carbon to the fungi. But this additional carbon supply aggravates nitrogen limitation via immobilization of the shared fungal biomass. We illustrate the evolutionary underpinnings of this situation by drawing on the analogous tragedy of the commons, where the shared mycorrhizal network is the commons, and explain how rising atmospheric CO2 may lead to greater nitrogen immobilization in the future.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services (AFE)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2021 11:56
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:34

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