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Evolution of the cooperation and consequences of a decrease in plant diversity on the root symbiont diversity

Abstract : The mutualism between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is extremely widespread (~ 80% of plants are colonized by these organisms) and ancient (over 450 million years ago). This symbiotic relationship is an essential component of healthy ecosystem functioning and productivity, and is strongly involved in the cycle of two key elements: phosphorus and carbon. Maintaining this mutualism has become especially important in the current context of a biodiversity loss. One goal of this thesis was to understand the stability of the mutualism. I first focused on nutrient exchange, testing whether plant host and fungal symbionts are able to discriminate among partners, and allocate more resources to those individuals providing more nutrients. I then explored the possibility of the host-plant involvement in the protection of mycorrhizal symbionts via a transfer of secondary metabolites into fungal hyphae. We introduced a new hypothesis suggesting that chemcial protection from the plant is positively correlated with the level of cooperation (i.e. nutrient transfer) of the fungal symbiont. I then moved from the individual to the community by studying the effects of decreasing plant diversity on the diversity of root symbionts. To this aim, I utilized molecular analyzes and innovative tools, such as high throughput sequencing. To further facilitate the study of the obtained sequences and other fungal sequences, I worked with colleagues to create a database ‘Phymyco-DB’ which was released to the public in 2012. Finally, I discuss the implication of the mycorrhizal mutualism in the context of current agricultural systems and propose new trajectories to manage these systems. This PhD project provides new insights on how plant and AM fungi interactions work and how they shape ecological processes and evolutionary trajectories in natural and agricultural ecosystems. These points are of major importance to develop a more ecologically intensive agriculture. The project has provided new knowledge and perspectives on the loss of plant diversity, and its consequences for AM symbiosis stability. As arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are essential in ecosystem processes and soil fertility maintenance, this work should have a broad impact in (i) the soil protection policy, (ii) the research on plant breeding and (iii) the design of sustainable agricultural systems.
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Submitted on : Friday, September 27, 2013 - 5:22:08 PM
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Marie Duhamel. Evolution of the cooperation and consequences of a decrease in plant diversity on the root symbiont diversity. Agricultural sciences. Université Rennes 1, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013REN1S045⟩. ⟨tel-00867233⟩

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