New Phytol. - (-) - [2023-09-11; online 2023-09-11]
Tree growth in boreal forests is driven by ectomycorrhizal fungal mobilisation of organic nitrogen and mineral nutrients in soils with discrete organic and mineral horizons. However, there are no studies of how ectomycorrhizal mineral weathering and organic nitrogen mobilisation processes are integrated across the soil profile. We studied effects of organic matter (OM) availability on ectomycorrhizal functioning by altering the proportions of natural organic and mineral soil in reconstructed podzol profiles containing Pinus sylvestris plants, using 13 CO2 pulse labelling, patterns of naturally occurring stable isotopes (26 Mg and 15 N) and high-throughput DNA sequencing of fungal amplicons. Reduction in OM resulted in nitrogen limitation of plant growth and decreased allocation of photosynthetically derived carbon and mycelial growth in mineral horizons. Fractionation patterns of 26 Mg indicated that magnesium mobilisation and uptake occurred primarily in the deeper mineral horizon and was driven by carbon allocation to ectomycorrhizal mycelium. In this horizon, relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal fungi, carbon allocation and base cation mobilisation all increased with increased OM availability. Allocation of carbon through ectomycorrhizal fungi integrates organic nitrogen mobilisation and mineral weathering across soil horizons, improving the efficiency of plant nutrient acquisition. Our findings have fundamental implications for sustainable forest management and belowground carbon sequestration.