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Functional trade-offs in the root-mycorrhizal symbiosis

Belowground resource acquisition is carried out by roots and mycorrhizal fungi together.

Morton staff


The function of fine roots belowground is intricately linked with mycorrhizal fungi reflecting a symbiosis that has existed since shortly after plants emerged on land. With the exchange of carbohydrates from the plant and belowground resources from the fungi, both partners may realize significant benefit. However, the trade-offs and potential advantages of greater or lesser reliance by plants on mycorrhizal fungi are not well understood. At the same time, these trade-off largely determine viable and competitive plant strategies for belowground resource acquisition strategies across environments. Our ongoing work aims to quantify functional trade-offs between fine roots and their mycorrhizal partners recognizing that the relative benefit to each partner likely changes with environmental conditions and based on the individual plant and fungal species involved.

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