Symbiotic control of canopy dominance in subtropical and tropical forests

David Johnson, Xubing Liu, David F.R.P. Burslem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subtropical and tropical forests in Asia often comprise canopy dominant trees that form symbioses with ectomycorrhizal fungi, and species-rich understorey trees that form symbioses with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. We propose a virtuous phosphorus acquisition hypothesis to explain this distinct structure. The hypothesis is based on (i) seedlings being rapidly colonised by ectomycorrhizal fungi from established mycelial networks that generates positive feedback and resistance to pathogens, (ii) ectomycorrhizal fungi having evolved a suite of morphological, physiological, and molecular traits to enable them to capture phosphorus from a diversity of chemical forms, including organic forms, and (iii) allocation of photosynthate carbon from adult host plants to provide the energy needed to undertake these processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995-1003
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number9
Early online date20 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • common mycorrhizal networks
  • mycorrhiza
  • organic phosphorus
  • phytate
  • plant community composition


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