Asymmetric belowground carbon transfer in a diverse tree community

Shifra Avital, Ido Rog, Stav Livne-Luzon, Rotem Cahanovitc, Tamir Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mycorrhizal fungi can colonize multiple trees of a single or multiple taxa, facilitating bidirectional exchange of carbon between trees. Mycorrhiza-induced carbon transfer was shown in the forest, but it is unknown whether carbon is shared symmetrically among tree species, and if not, which tree species are better donors and which are better recipients. Here, we test this question by investigating carbon transfer dynamics among five Mediterranean tree species in a microcosm system, including both ectomycorrhizal (EM) and arbuscular (AM) plants. Trees were planted together in “community boxes” using natural soil from a mixed forest plot that serves as a habitat for all five tree species and their native mycorrhizal fungi. In each box, only the trees of a single species were pulse-labelled with 13CO2. We found that carbon transfer was asymmetric, with oak being a better donor, and pistacia and cypress better recipients. Shared mycorrhizal species may have facilitated carbon transfer, but their diversity did not affect the amount, nor timing, of the transfer. Overall, our findings in a microcosm system expose rich, but hidden, belowground interactions in a diverse population of trees and mycorrhizal fungi. The asymmetric carbon exchange among cohabiting tree species could potentially contribute to forest resilience in an uncertain future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3481-3495
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CO labelling
  • carbon transfer
  • fungal community
  • mycorrhizal networks
  • resource sharing
  • rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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