Root fungi help trees cope with road salt, say researchers

Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi can help street trees cope with the stress of de-icing salt in their rootzones, Austrian researchers have claimed.

Image: Gene Selkov
Image: Gene Selkov

The team from Vienna's University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences inoculated half of a population of wych elm (Ulmus glabra) seedlings with commercial AM spores, then treated some of each with a salt solution, and measured root respiration and biomass accumulation.

"The salt treatment significantly reduced the biomass of non-inoculated seedlings [but] biomass of AM plants was not significantly affected," they said.

However, "without NaCl stress the mycorrhizal plants tended to grow less than the non-inoculated due to the cost of having mycorrhiza", they added.

They concluded: "Commercial AM inoculate can prevent a major increase of root respiration under moderate NaCl stress, enabling trees to deploy more assimilated carbon for growth and, theoretically, defence mechanisms against other stress factors occurring in urban environments."

The results are published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

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