Casuarina in Africa: distribution, role and importance of arbuscular mycorrhizal, ectomycorrhizal fungi and Frankia on plant development.
Exotic trees were introduced in Africa to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems. Introduced species included several Australian species belonging to the Casuarinaceae family. Casuarinas trees grow very fast and are resistant to drought and high salinity. They are particularly well adapted to poor and disturbed soils thanks to their capacity to establish symbiotic associations with mycorrhizal fungi - both arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal - and with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria Frankia. These trees are now widely distributed in more than 20 African countries. Casuarina are mainly used in forestation programs to rehabilitate degraded or polluted sites, to stabilise sand dunes and to provide fuelwood and charcoal and thus contribute considerably to improving livelihoods and local economies. In this paper, we describe the geographical distribution of Casuarina in Africa, their economic and ecological value and the role of the symbiotic interactions between Casuarina, mycorrhizal fungi and Frankia.