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Specificity in the mycorrhizal symbiosis
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van der Heijden M.G.A., Sanders I.R.
Different arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) fungal taxa have a differential effect on the growth of co-existing plant species. This means that in order to fully understand the role of these fungi in plant communities, information is needed on whether the symbiosis is specific. In this chapter, I briefly review the ecological consequences of specificity versus non-specificity in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis on plant ecology. Both from a theoretical approach, and based on observations, there has been an underlying assumption that no specificity exists in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. I consider why these assumptions have been made. Direct evidence for or against specificity in the symbiosis is scant and the reason is mainly due to the difficulty in describing AMF community structure in natural communities (see Clapp et al., Chap.8, this Vol.). Here, I take an evolutionary, as well as an ecological, approach to look at the evidence that predicts that evolution of specificity in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis could occur. I then consider alternative hypotheses and evidence that could explain why the evolution of specificity might not occur. These hypotheses are based on the growth habit, reproductive strategies and foraging behaviour of AMF and on new findings concerning ANF genetics.
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