New Phytologist
2001: 149(2): 156-158

Nitrogen and ectomycorrhizal fungal communities:
what we know, what we need to know

Erik A. Lilleskov1 and Thomas D. Bruns1

1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California at Berkeley, 321 Koshland Hall, Berkeley, California 94720-3102.

Understanding the effect of changing nitrogen availability on biodiversity is critical, not only to address basic questions about the factors that structure communities, but also because atmospheric nitrogen deposition has been increasing in recent decades (Galloway et al., 1995). One hypothesized effect of excess N deposition is the loss of diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi (Arnolds, 1991). Sporocarp production is one way to assess ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity, but it is not reliable – for that, it is necessary to look belowground, now a realistic proposition with the development of PCR-based molecular identification methods. The study by Peter and co-workers (2001) in this issue (see pp. 311–325), is the first in-depth molecular study to track the changes in belowground ectomycorrhizal communities from the initiation of fertilization onwards.

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