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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The biomass-density relationship (whereby the biomass of individual plants decreases as plant density increases) has generally been explained by competition for resources. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are able to affect plant interactions by mediating resource utilization, but whether this AMF-mediated interaction will change the biomass-density relationship is unclear. We conducted an experiment to test the hypothesis that AMF will shift the biomass-density relationship by affecting intraspecific competition. Four population densities (10, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 seedlings per square meter) of Medicago sativa L. were planted in field plots. Water application (1,435 or 327.7 mm/year) simulated precipitation in wet areas (sufficient water) and arid areas (insufficient water). The fungicide benomyl was applied to suppress AMF in some plots ("low-AMF" treatment) and not in others ("high-AMF" treatment). The effect of the AMF treatment on the biomass-density relationship depended on water conditions. High AMF enhanced the decrease of individual biomass with increasing density (the biomass-density line had a steeper slope) when water was sufficient but not when water was insufficient. AMF treatment did not affect plant survival rate or population size but did affect absolute competition intensity (ACI). When water was sufficient, ACI was significantly higher in the high-AMF treatment than in the low-AMF treatment, but ACI was unaffected by AMF treatment when water was insufficient. Our results suggest that AMF status did not impact survival rate and population size but did shift the biomass-density relationship via effects on intraspecific competition. This effect of AMF on the biomass-density relationship depended on the availability of water.
    Full-text Article · May 2011 · Mycorrhiza