How mycorrhizal associations drive plant population and community biology

Mycorrhizal fungi provide plants with a range of benefits, including mineral nutrients and protection from stress and pathogens. Here we synthesize current information about how the presence and type of mycorrhizal association affect plant communities. We argue that mycorrhizal fungi regulate seedling establishment and species coexistence through stabilizing and equalizing mechanisms such as soil nutrient partitioning, feedback to soil antagonists, differential mycorrhizal benefits, and nutrient trade. Mycorrhizal fungi have strong effects on plant population and community biology, with mycorrhizal type–specific effects on seed dispersal, seedling establishment, and soil niche differentiation, as well as interspecific and intraspecific competition and hence plant diversity.