Mycorrhizas in the Central European flora: relationships with plant life history traits and ecology.
Plant traits have been widely used to characterize different aspects of the ecology of plant species. Despite its wide distribution and its proven significance at the level of individuals, communities, and populations, the ability to form mycorrhizal associations has been largely neglected in these studies so far. Analyzing plant traits associated with the occurrence of mycorrhizas in plants can therefore enhance our understanding of plant strategies and distributions. Using a comparative approach, we tested for associations between mycorrhizal status and habitat characteristics, life history traits, and plant distribution patterns in 1752 species of the German flora (a major part of the Central European flora). Data were analyzed using log-linear models or generalized linear models, both accounting for phylogenetic relationships. Obligatorily mycorrhizal (OM) species tended to be positively associated with higher temperature, drier habitats, and higher pH; and negatively associated with moist, acidic, and fertile soils. Competitive species were more frequently OM, and stress tolerators were non-mycorrhizal (NM), while ruderal species did not show any preference. Facultatively mycorrhizal (FM) species showed the widest geographic and ecological amplitude. Indigenous species were more frequently FM and neophytes (recent aliens) more frequently OM than expected. FM species differed markedly from OM and NM species in almost all analyzed traits. Specifically, they showed a wider geographic distribution and ecological niche. Our study of the relationships between mycorrhizal status and other plant traits provides a comprehensive test of existing hypotheses and reveals novel patterns. The clear distinction between FM and OM+NM species in terms of their ecology opens up a new field of research in plant-mycorrhizal ecology.