Mycorrhizal Interactions With Saprotrophs and Impact on Soil Carbon Storage

E. Verbruggen, R. Pena, C. W. Fernandez, J. L. Soong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

26 Scopus citations


In most ecosystems roots and their associated mycorrhizal fungi are a significant component of the soil food web where many bacteria, fungi, and animals directly or indirectly depend on them for much of their nutrition. This dependency is to a large extent mutual: decomposers (saprotrophs) in soil are the primary agents in releasing vital nutrients locked up in organic matter, which in many cases neither plant roots nor mycorrhizal fungi can effectively release. Therefore plants and mycorrhizal fungi engage in an intriguing relationship with saprotrophs in which they act as a main substrate for saprotrophs and simultaneously depend on them and compete with them for soil nutrients. These multiple interactions present us with difficulties in generalizing the effect of mycorrhizal fungi on saprotrophs. In some cases their interests are aligned and saprotrophs and mycorrhizal fungi can act in concert in releasing and taking up essential nutrients; in others competition may be more important. In this chapter we discuss the ways in which different types of mycorrhizal fungi (arbuscular, ectomycorrhizal, and ericoid) can prime soil organic matter decomposition, compete with saprotrophs for substrate, and engage in other ways with members of the soil food web to affect soil organic carbon stocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMycorrhizal Mediation of Soil
Subtitle of host publicationFertility, Structure, and Carbon Storage
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780128043837
ISBN (Print)9780128043127
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Arbuscular mycorrhiza
  • Carbon stock
  • Decomposition
  • Ectomycorrhiza
  • Ericoid mycorrhiza
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Priming
  • Saprotrophic fungi
  • Soil organic matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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