Ectomycorrhizal fungi mediate belowground carbon transfer between pines and oaks

Rotem Cahanovitc, Stav Livne-Luzon, Roey Angel, Tamir Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Inter-kingdom belowground carbon (C) transfer is a significant, yet hidden, biological phenomenon, due to the complexity and highly dynamic nature of soil ecology. Among key biotic agents influencing C allocation belowground are ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF). EMF symbiosis can extend beyond the single tree-fungus partnership to form common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs). Despite the high prevalence of CMNs in forests, little is known about the identity of the EMF transferring the C and how these in turn affect the dynamics of C transfer. Here, Pinus halepensis and Quercus calliprinos saplings growing in forest soil were labeled using a 13CO2 labeling system. Repeated samplings were applied during 36 days to trace how 13C was distributed along the tree-fungus-tree pathway. To identify the fungal species active in the transfer, mycorrhizal fine root tips were used for DNA-stable isotope probing (SIP) with 13CO2 followed by sequencing of labeled DNA. Assimilated 13CO2 reached tree roots within four days and was then transferred to various EMF species. C was transferred across all four tree species combinations. While Tomentella ellisii was the primary fungal mediator between pines and oaks, Terfezia pini, Pustularia spp., and Tuber oligospermum controlled C transfer among pines. We demonstrate at a high temporal, quantitative, and taxonomic resolution, that C from EMF host trees moved into EMF and that C was transferred further to neighboring trees of similar and distinct phylogenies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1429
Number of pages10
JournalISME Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Microbiology


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