The effects of ectomycorrhiza on Aleppo pine seedlings' ability to
endure drought and inter-plant competition
Seedling establishment under natural conditions is often limited by
numerous interacting factors. We tested the combined effects of drought,
herbaceous competition, and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) on the growth
and shape of Aleppo pine seedlings and their associated EMF community.
EMF inoculum significantly increased seedlings’ height, biomass, and the
number of side branches. However, under either competition or drought,
the effect of EMF on seedling biomass and height was greatly reduced,
while the effect on shoot branching was maintained. All plants were
strongly dominated by Geopora, a fungal genus known to inoculate
seedlings in dry habitats. Under a combination of drought and
competition, EMF had no influence on plant growth and shape. This
discrepancy highlights the complexity of the benefits provided to
seedlings by EMF under ecologically relevant conditions.