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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Research on interactions between plants and their symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi has increased dramatically during the last decade, generating a confusing body of theoretical and empirical results. Simultaneously, there has been an explosion in commercial applications of mycorrhizal fungi in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and ecosystem restoration. Considering the unexpected consequences of many human introductions of non-native plants and animals, and our current lack of understanding of the factors controlling mutualistic performance of mycorrhizas, it is alarming that so little caution is being used in commercial applications of mycorrhizal fungi. Our proposed working group will: 1) perform meta-analyses to synthesize the currently disparate body of empirical and theoretical work on mycorrhizal function within communities and ecosystems, 2) develop models of mycorrhizal performance with environmental conditions and plant and fungal phenotypes as variables, 3) generate recommendations and precautions regarding the commercial use of mycorrhizal inoculum, 4) establish an online database that documents inoculation trials and tracks their outcome over time, and 5) organize a symposium at an international conference. In addition to contributing to the development of principles to guide mycorrhizal management, our efforts will help generate better theories for understanding the roles of mutualisms in population and community dynamics.

Project extension: We are hoping that NCEAS would consider extending our working group. We feel strongly that if given the opportunity, we would continue to be productive through three additional working group meetings. Our next meeting (the 4th overall, proposed for January, 2007) would focus on Activity 6 above: 1) Conducting and interpreting initial meta-analyses, 2) modifying aspects of the data-base to facilitate further analyses, and 3) adding more data in areas of weakness in the database. That meeting would also allow follow-up work on the three outstanding manuscripts we will have at that point (from Activities 2-5 above), as needed. Specifically, the goal would be to generate a draft of the manuscript from Activity 5, and to finish revisions of the manuscripts from Activities 3 & 4 if needed. The final two meetings (October, 2007 and January, 2008) would then be focused on final meta-analyses and writing manuscripts from those (Activity 6), including papers for scientific audiences and also for practitioners of mycorrhizal management, and on finishing the manuscript from Activity 5. Throughout the next three meetings, we would also appreciate the opportunity to work with the staff at NCEAS to adapt our database model into a more general format, and to tailor the Engauge digitizer program, as described above.

Principal Investigator(s)

Jason D. Hoeksema, Nancy C. Johnson, James A. Umbanhowar

Project Dates

Start: April 18, 2007

End: April 23, 2007



Bala Chaudhary
Northern Arizona University
Catherine Gehring
Northern Arizona University
Jason D. Hoeksema
University of Mississippi
Nancy C. Johnson
Northern Arizona University
John N. Klironomos
University of Guelph
Roger Koide
Pennsylvania State University
R. Michael Miller
Argonne National Laboratory
John C. Moore
Colorado State University
Anne Pringle
Harvard University
Suzanne Simard
University of British Columbia
William Swenson
University of California, Riverside
James A. Umbanhowar
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Lawrence Walters
Northern Arizona University
Gail W. Wilson
Kansas State University
Catherine Zabinski
Montana State University