Diversity of mycorrhizal plant species and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in evergreen forest, deciduous forest and grassland ecosystems of Southern Chile


  • C. G. Castillo
  • F. Borie
  • R. Godoy
  • R. Rubio
  • E. Sieverding


In the Valdivian rainforest region of the Southern Chilean Andes three main ecosystems are found: Primary evergreen forests, secondary deciduous forests, and grassland areas. The secondary forest and the grasslands are habitually the result of the clearance of the primary forest some 60 years ago. The secondary forest consists mainly of the deciduous tree species Nothofagus alpina; forest management practices such as crown thinning and clearance of the understorey are applied to the secondary forest to improve its economic value. The grasslands are used by extensive cattle grazing. Soils in this region are acid Andosols with high organic matter content, high exchangeable aluminum and low levels of available phosphorus. The main objective of this study was to investigate the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) plant species and of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in these three ecosystems. The highest diversity with 53 plant species was found in the evergreen forest with 77.4% of them AM, while in the grassland 91% of the 22 plant species were AM. The deciduous forest had 11 plant species only and the lowest proportion of AM plant species (55%). Thirty-nine AM fungal species were found in total, of which most are being reported for the first time from Southern Chile. Thirteen fungal species were of the Acaulospora genus, 10 of Glomus, 4 species each of Scutellospora and Archaeospora, 3 species each of Pacispora and Entrophospora, and one species each of Paraglomus and Diversispora. AMF species were more abundant in the grassland (29 spp.) than in the evergreen forest (20 spp.) which is likely related to a higher relative proportion of AM plant species in the grassland. Four AMF species were present in all the ecosystems, and 15 species were apparently quite specific as they were only found in one of the ecosystems. Noteworthy was the lack of Paraglomus and Scutellospora spp. in any of the forest ecosystems, and the relatively higher presence of Entrophospora spores in those ecosystems. It was concluded that the diversity of the AMF species in the ecosystems is strongly influenced by the proportion of AM plant species in each ecosystem and that their diversity is not related to soil chemical properties.