Managing Natural Reinvasion

Of the diverse array of AM and EM fungi that could potentially inhabit a site, relatively few are used to replace the hundreds that are lost with disturbance. Managing a site to facilitate natural reinvasion may therefore be critical to the restoration process. In arid habitats, mycorrhizal propagules are dispersed across sites by both wind and animals (Warner et al. 1987). Evaluating and manipulating these two factors could potentially enhance the rate of mycorrhizal recovery. For example, Allen et al. (1989) found that wind dispersal and deposition patterns of fungal spores were predictable given an understanding of the physical and biological characteristics of a site. Knowing potential source and sink areas, it is possible to enhance the trapping of windblown propagules using artificial barriers such as snow fences or by manipulating the distances between individual plants thereby creating islands of fungal inoculum (Allen et al. 1997).

Animal activity on disturbed sites is also important to mycorrhizal recovery. Animals disperse fungal propagules, either by directly feeding on them (Allen 1988; Allen et al. 1997; Blaschke and Baumler 1989; Rabatin and Skinner 1985) or by moving soil and root material containing propagules (Allen and MacMahon 1988; Friese and Allen 1993). Numerous animals consume the hypogeous fruiting bodies (truffles) of some EM fungi and deposit these in new locations, a critical element to the reforestation of many habitats (Allen et al. 1997). Pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) and harvester ant (Pogonomrymex occidentalis) move substantial amounts of soil, bringing spores, root fragments, and plant propagules to the surface (Allen et al. 1984). Their mounds provide refuge and favorable microsite conditions for the establishment of late-seral obligately mycorrhizal plant species (Allen 1987). Interestingly, the dispersal of mycorrhizal propagules via animal activity could play an influential role in determining rates and patterns of plant reestablishment success.

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