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Open AccessArticle

Presence of Mycorrhizal Fungal Hyphae Rather than Living Roots Retards Root Litter Decomposition

1
CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China
2
School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(6), 502; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10060502
Received: 17 May 2019 / Revised: 8 June 2019 / Accepted: 11 June 2019 / Published: 13 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest Litter Decomposition: An Integrative Approach)
Although both living roots and mycorrhizal fungi are well known to interact with saprotrophic microbes to affect litter decomposition, their relative importance is largely unclear. Here, a two-year pot experiment was conducted with two ectomycorrhizal (Pinus elliottii and Pinus massoniana) and four arbuscular mycorrhizal (Cinnamomum camphora, Cunninghamia lanceolata, Michelia maudiae and Schima superba) subtropical tree species to evaluate the relative effects of living roots and mycorrhizal fungal hyphae on their own root litter decomposition and to test whether these effects differed between ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal trees. To achieve these objectives, litterbags with 50-µm and 1-mm mesh sizes filled with root litter of a given tree species were simultaneously installed in pots planted with the same species and unplanted pots filled with composite soil for all species. Effects of living roots alone were calculated as differences in root litter decomposition between 50-µm and 1-mm mesh litterbags installed in planted pots. Mycorrhizal hyphal effects were calculated as differences in root litter decomposition between 50-µm litterbags installed in planted and unplanted pots. The presence of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae significantly reduced root litter mass loss and inhibited the activities of β-glucosidase and phenol oxidase, while effects of living roots alone were non-significant when all tree species were pooled and inconsistent at the tree species level. Mycorrhizal fungal hyphae induced decreases in root litter mass loss that were markedly related to their inhibitory effects on β-glucosidase and phenol oxidase activities. When tree species were grouped by their mycorrhizal types, non-significant differences were observed between ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal trees in their living root or mycorrhizal fungal effects on root litter decomposition. These findings highlight the important roles of mycorrhizal fungi in mediating litter decomposition via interacting with saprotrophic microbes and suggest that changes in tree carbon allocation to mycorrhizal fungi owing to global change may affect soil carbon storage. View Full-Text
Keywords: enzyme activity; living root; mycorrhizal fungi; mycorrhizal type; root litter decomposition; root-microbe interaction enzyme activity; living root; mycorrhizal fungi; mycorrhizal type; root litter decomposition; root-microbe interaction
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Lin, G.; Chen, Z.; Zeng, D.-H. Presence of Mycorrhizal Fungal Hyphae Rather than Living Roots Retards Root Litter Decomposition. Forests 2019, 10, 502.

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