Does proximity to conspecific adults influence the establishment of ectomycorrhizal trees in rain forest?

D M Newbery, I J Alexander, J A Rother

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Three ectomycorrhizal legume trees, Microberlinia bisulcata, Tetraberlinia bifoliolata and T. moreliana, form discrete groves in the southern part of Korup National Park, in southwest Cameroon and contribute c. 45-70% of stand basal area locally in a matrix of otherwise species-rich arbuscular mycorrhizal forest. A transplant experiment was performed to assess the importance of ectomycorrhizal infection associated with proximity to parents in seedling establishment of the grove-forming species. Nonectomycorrhizal seedlings of the three species were transplanted into plots of two forest types, one of high (HEM, within-grove) and one of very low (LEM, outside the grove) abundance of all three species as adult trees. For two species (T. moreliana and M. bisulcata) there was no difference in survival over 16 months, but for the third (T. bifoliolata) survival was best in HEM forest, and correlated with the basal area of adult trees of ectomycorrhizal species. Only one species (T. moreliana) increased in biomass over the experimental period; the others declined. There was no effect of forest type on overall growth of ally species, but the survivors of two (T. moreliana and M. bisulcata) had heavier stems in the HEM forest. Differences in survival and growth of transplants between the three species were in accord with the ecology of the species as inferred from the frequency distributions of adult tree size in the forest. Seedlings became infected with ectomycorrhizas in both forest types; where there was a difference in extent of infection (T. moreliana) this was not related to survival or growth; and where there was a difference in survival (T. bifoliolata) this was not related to extent of infection. These results confirm that mycorrhizal inoculum associated with conspecific adults is neither a prerequisite nor a guarantee of seedling establishment, but indicates that in some circumstances there might be benefits of being close to parents. Further research is required to unravel the complexities of ectomycorrhizal community structure in this spatially and temporally heterogeneous forest, and to clarify the extent to which the various hosts share ectomycorrhizal partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-409
Number of pages9
JournalNew Phytologist
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Caesalpiniaceae
  • ectomycorrhizas
  • hyphal networks
  • tropical forest regeneration
  • carbon transfer
  • transplants


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