Partitioning of soil phosphorus among arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal trees in tropical and subtropical forests

Xubing Liu, David F R P Burslem, Joe D. Taylor, Andrew F S Taylor, Eyen Khoo, Noreen Majalap-Lee, Thorunn Helgason, David Johnson

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84 Citations (Scopus)
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Partitioning of soil phosphorus (P) pools has been proposed as a key mechanism maintaining plant diversity, but experimental support is lacking. Here, we provided different chemical forms of P to 15 tree species with contrasting root symbiotic relationships to investigate plant P acquisition in both tropical and subtropical forests. Both ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) trees responded positively to addition of inorganic P, but strikingly, ECM trees acquired more P from a complex organic form (phytic acid). Most ECM tree species and all AM tree species also showed some capacity to take up simple organic P (monophosphate). Mycorrhizal colonisation was negatively correlated with soil extractable P concentration, suggesting that mycorrhizal fungi may regulate organic P acquisition among tree species. Our results support the hypothesis that ECM and AM plants partition soil P sources, which may play an ecologically important role in promoting species coexistence in tropical and subtropical forests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-723
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

The data used in this study are available on DOI: 36.10.6084/m9.figshare.5890573.


  • mycorrhizal fungi
  • phosphate
  • seedling growth
  • soil organic phosphorus
  • resource partitioning
  • tropical and subtropical forests


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