Aspects of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal ecology
: AM fungal nutrient-function efficiency in a primary sand-dune ecosystem on the west coast of India

  • Andrew Willis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are root and soil inhabiting symbionts with higher plants. The fungi are especially nutrient-function efficient in nutrient deficient soils. There have been innumerable studies of AM fungal facilitation of plant nutrient uptake in controlled environments. Comparatively little similar investigation has been undertaken in natural soils, including investigation of taxon specific nutrient-function efficiency in the phylum.

Plant diversity and frequency, soil chemistry statuses, and AM spore diversity and abundance were sampled in an interrupted-belt transect in an aggrading dune sytem on west-coast India, followed by foredunes and transect nutrient amendment experiments in selected plant species.

The transect extends 175 m inland from mean high-water mark (MH-WM). Examination showed nutrients were consistently deficient. A plant zonation pattern and increasing frequency over the transect were indicated, as well as decreasing pH and increasing organic matter (OM)-amendment AM species diversity gradients. Plant zonation does not correlate with soil chemistry. There was a distinct soil transition at the 175 m point and evidence of further system partition between foredune and behind-foredune regions.

Plant and AM demographies bore no resemblance suggesting neither is driven by the other. Four AM genera were recovered, Acaulospora, Gigaspora and Scutellospora in high abundance, Glomus in comparatively low abundance. The two co-dominant species, A. spinosa and Gi. margarita, displayed divergent strategies in OM amendment. Certain AM taxa may be functionally associated with particular soil nutrients. There was no evidence of taxon-specific nutrient-function efficiency.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Goa University
SupervisorJames Bennett (Supervisor), Philip Harris (Supervisor) & Bernard Rodrigues (Supervisor)


  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • symbiosis
  • plant growth
  • nutrient uptake and exchange
  • coastal sand dune systems
  • India

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