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Plant-fungus interactions in the alpine environment subjected to future climatic conditions

Abstract : Even though arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are present from foothills to all alpine habitats, research on their role in mountain ecosystems remains incomplete. The main objective of this dissertation was to investigate interactions between AMF and plants along altitudinal gradients under both, natural conditions and simulated future climate change conditions.A novel framework is suggested for the functioning of the AMF-plant relationship along altitudinal gradients based on the stress gradient hypothesis. The first hypothesis expects the AMF-relationship to shift along the mutualism–parasitism continuum following changing environmental stress along the altitudinal gradient. The relationship might be most mutualistic at the subalpine zone. In a second hypothesis, this shift along the mutualism-parasitism continuum is predicted to be different under climate change conditions, and the most mutualistic expression of the AMF-plant relationship expected in the montane and alpine zone. Studies to validate the presented hypotheses will help to identify important mechanisms underlying plant-AMF interaction and with that the mediation of plant-plant interactions by AMF. In the scope of this thesis, the framework was addressed in field experiment as well as under controlled conditions in a climate chamber experiment.From a literature review and from a field experiment along a dry inner-alpine altitudinal gradient this thesis proposes the following conclusions: First, AMF are also ubiquitous in mountain ecosystems, but a decrease in their abundance with increasing altitude is dependent on the overall climatic context. Second, their relationship to plants is however strongly dependent on the host plant species as well as the biotic and abiotic context. Third, a shift of the AMF-relationship along with altitude is expected but will quite possibly also depend on the plant species identity. Fourth, to fully assess the suggested working hypotheses for AMF-plant interactions field studies must be conducted at different spatial scales and covering different mountain systems.It is particularly important to understand and investigate the drivers of AMF plant relationship in mountain ecosystems to be able to make sound predictions for AMF-plant interactions under future climate change conditions. The presented field and climate chamber experiments on climate change show that temperature is an important factor because it aggravates the conditions of drought in lowland and a threshold is surpassed. It becomes also clear that whether AMF mitigate climate change effects for plants or not is dependent on the plant species. Altogether this thesis contributes to current research questions in ecology, climate change mitigation and plant–soil interactions, because it addresses the role of AMF in mountain grassland ecosystem, investigates the effects of climate change and provides a new framework concerning the functioning of the AMF-plant relationship ranging from parasitism to mutualism.
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Anne-Lena Wahl. Plant-fungus interactions in the alpine environment subjected to future climatic conditions. Global Changes. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016GREAS038⟩. ⟨tel-02607428v2⟩

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