USER MANUAL: A Practical Guide to Inoculation with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi in Ecological Restoration
University of Kansas, Lawrence Lawrence United States
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Despite billions of dollars being used for grassland restorations, current restoration practices fail to restore native grassland diversity, composition and function. We present evidence that the success of restorations can be improved by reintroduction of components of the native plant microbiome. In particular, we find that a group of root symbionts, arbuscular mycorrhizal AM fungi, play critical roles in grasslands community structure and that these fungi are sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance. Greenhouse assays demonstrate that late successional prairie plant species are more dependent on AM fungi and more sensitive to AM fungal identity than early successional plant species or non-native invasive plant species. Field inoculation assays show that reintroduction of the native AM fungi into disturbed landscapes can facilitate establishment of conservative plant species that are often missing from standard restorations, thereby improving plant diversity, accelerating succession and enhancing restoration quality. Early establishment of late successional grassland species can suppress non-native weedy plant species, thereby reducing management costs. We present and discuss the costs and benefits of approaches to isolate, culture, and reintroduce native AM fungal communities.