Endomycorrhizal Role for Interspecific Transfer of Phosphorus in a Community of Annual Plants

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Science  03 Sep 1982:
Vol. 217, Issue 4563, pp. 941-943
DOI: 10.1126/science.217.4563.941


Phosphorus-32 applied to leaves of Plantago erecta in a serpentine annual grassland reached the shoots of about 20 percent of the close neighbors. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae connect the root systems of neighbors of different species and probably mediate nutrient transfers among them. Spatial patterns of transfer show that taxonomic affinity, distance from donor, and size of recipient do not serve as predictors of transfer and that models of transfer by simple diffusion are not appropriate. No alternative predictor was discovered. The results underscore the importance of belowground interactions in explaining neighbor effects, but the factors controlling nutrient transfer and its consequences for community structure appear complex.