Almost all land plants form symbiotic associations with mycorrhizal fungi. These below-ground fungi play a key role in terrestrial ecosystems as they regulate nutrient and carbon cycles, and influence soil structure and ecosystem multifunctionality. Up to 80% of plant N and P is provided by mycorrhizal fungi and many plant species depend on these symbionts for growth and survival. Estimates suggest that there are c. 50 000 fungal species that form mycorrhizal associations with c. 250 000 plant species. The development of high-throughput molecular tools has helped us to better understand the biology, evolution, and biodiversity of mycorrhizal associations. Nuclear genome assemblies and gene annotations of 33 mycorrhizal fungal species are now available providing fascinating opportunities to deepen our understanding of the mycorrhizal lifestyle, the metabolic capabilities of these plant symbionts, the molecular dialogue between symbionts, and evolutionary adaptations across a range of mycorrhizal associations. Large-scale molecular surveys have provided novel insights into the diversity, spatial and temporal dynamics of mycorrhizal fungal communities. At the ecological level, network theory makes it possible to analyze interactions between plant-fungal partners as complex underground multi-species networks. Our analysis suggests that nestedness, modularity and specificity of mycorrhizal networks vary and depend on mycorrhizal type. Mechanistic models explaining partner choice, resource exchange, and coevolution in mycorrhizal associations have been developed and are being tested. This review ends with major frontiers for further research.
Keywords: arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; biodiversity; ectomycorrhizal fungi; ericoid; mutualism; orchid; plant-microbe interactions; population; symbiosis.
© 2015 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2015 New Phytologist Trust.