Fungi in the future: inter-annual variation and effects of atmospheric change on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities

Anne Cotton, Alastair Fitter, RM Miller, Alex Dumbrell, Thorunn Helgason

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Understanding the natural dynamics of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and their response to global environmental change is essential for the prediction of future plant growth and ecosystem functions. We investigated the long-term temporal dynamics and effect of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3) concentrations on AM fungal communities.

Molecular methods were used to characterize the AM fungal communities of soybean (Glycine max) grown under elevated and ambient atmospheric concentrations of both CO2 and O3 within a free air concentration enrichment experiment in three growing seasons over 5 yr.

Elevated CO2 altered the community composition of AM fungi, increasing the ratio of Glomeraceae to Gigasporaceae. By contrast, no effect of elevated O3 on AM fungal communities was detected. However, the greatest compositional differences detected were between years, suggesting that, at least in the short term, large-scale interannual temporal dynamics are stronger mediators than atmospheric CO2 concentrations of AM fungal communities.

We conclude that, although atmospheric change may significantly alter AM fungal communities, this effect may be masked by the influences of natural changes and successional patterns through time. We suggest that changes in carbon availability are important determinants of the community dynamics of AM fungi.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1598-1607
Number of pages10
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Early online date5 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • 18S rRNA
  • arbuscular mycorrhizas
  • atmospheric change
  • free air concentration enrichment (FACE)
  • Glomeromycota
  • microbial diversity
  • soil fungi
  • temporal dynamics


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