Ectomycorrhizal associations in the tropics – biogeography, diversity patterns and ecosystem roles

Adriana Corrales, Terry W. Henkel, Matthew E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


(Table presented.). Summary: Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) associations were historically considered rare or absent from tropical ecosystems. Although most tropical forests are dominated by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) trees, ECM associations are widespread and found in all tropical regions. Here, we highlight emerging patterns of ECM biogeography, diversity and ecosystem functions, identify knowledge gaps, and offer direction for future research. At the continental and regional scales, tropical ECM systems are highly diverse and vary widely in ECM plant and fungal abundance, diversity, composition and phylogenetic affinities. We found strong regional differences among the dominant host plant families, suggesting that biogeographical factors strongly influence tropical ECM symbioses. Both ECM plants and fungi also exhibit strong turnover along altitudinal and soil fertility gradients, suggesting niche differentiation among taxa. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are often more abundant and diverse in sites with nutrient-poor soils, suggesting that ECM associations can optimize plant nutrition and may contribute to the maintenance of tropical monodominant forests. More research is needed to elucidate the diversity patterns of ECM fungi and plants in the tropics and to clarify the role of this symbiosis in nutrient and carbon cycling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1076-1091
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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