Seasonality of arbuscular mycorrhizal hyphae and glomalin in a western Montana grassland

Emily R. Lutgen, Deborah Muir-Clairmont, Jon Graham, Matthias C. Rillig

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89 Scopus citations


In order to more fully understand the basic biology of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), and their role in natural ecosystems, it is necessary to document seasonal changes of various aspects of the life history of these fungi. Due to their unique position at the root-soil interface, AMF have been described as 'keystone mutualists' in ecosystems. Despite the importance of AMF in ecosystems, few studies exist that examine the seasonality of external hyphae and their exuded products (e.g. glomalin), the AMF variables directly related to ecosystem function through their contributions to soil aggregation. This study examined seasonal dynamics of several soil variables, with a specific interest in the seasonality of external hyphae and glomalin, a glycoprotein produced by AMF, which is correlated with soil aggregate stability. Here we measured glomalin concentrations and external AMF and non-AMF hyphal length, as well as soil moisture, percent fungal root colonization (AMF and non-AMF), and root length in soil in an intermountain grassland in western Montana over one growing season (13 time points). Of the glomalin pools and hyphal lengths measured, significant seasonal changes occurred for total glomalin (TG; 24.5% change), immunoreactive easily extractable glomalin (IREEG; 53.8% change), and AM hyphal length (107% change). Prior studies on glomalin in natural systems have not considered seasonal effects. The small seasonal change in glomalin pools lends further support to the hypothesis that glomalin is relatively stable in soils, and suggests that one-time sampling may be sufficient to satisfactorily capture this response variable. However, the generality of this observation has yet to be tested in a wider range of ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • AMF hyphal products
  • Root colonization
  • Root length
  • Soil moisture


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