Journal of Arid Land


Previous studies documented that most desert plants can be colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, however, little is known about how the dynamics of AM fungi are related to ephemerals in desert ecosystems. The dynamics of AM fungi with desert ephemerals were examined to determine the effects of host plant life stages on the development of AM fungi. Mean colonization of ephemeral annual plants was 45% lower than that of ephemeral perennial plants. The colonizations were much higher in the early part of the growing season than in later parts, peaking at flowering times. The phenology of AM fungi in root systems varied among different ephemerals. The density of AM fungal spores increased with the development of ephemeral annual plants, reached its maximum at flowering times, and then plateaued about 20 days after the aboveground senescence. A significant positive correlation was found between AM fungi spore density and biomass of ephemeral annual plants. The life cycles of AM fungi associated with desert ephemerals were very short, being about 60–70 days. Soil temperature and water content had no direct influence on the development of AM fungal spores. We concluded that the development of AM fungi was in response to desert ephemeral phenology and life history strategy.

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