Can common mycorrhizal fungal networks be managed to enhance ecosystem functionality?

Pierre-Louis Alaux, Yaqian Zhang, Lucy Gilbert, David Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Most mycorrhizal fungi have the capacity to develop extensive extraradical mycelium, and thus have the potential to connect multiple plants and form a ‘common mycorrhizal network’. Several studies have shown that these networks can influence plant establishment, nutrition, productivity and defence, nutrient distribution and storage, and multitrophic interactions. However, many of these studies have focused on the importance of common mycorrhizal networks in ecological contexts and there has been less emphasis in managed systems, including croplands, grassland, agroforestry and forestry, on which humankind relies. Here we review the evidence of the potential importance of common mycorrhizal networks in managed systems, and provide insight into how these networks could be managed effectively to maximise the functions and outputs from managed systems. We also emphasise possible negative effects of common mycorrhizal networks on plant performance and question popular views that mycorrhizal networks may offer a panacea for enhancing ecosystem services. We highlight the need to gain greater insight into the ubiquity, functioning and response to management interventions of common mycorrhizal networks and, critically, the need to determine the extent to which these networks can add value to the promotion of mycorrhizal colonization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlants, People, Planet
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Nov 2020


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