Nickel tolerance of serpentine and non-serpentine Knautia arvensis plants as affected by arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis
In order to improve knowledge about the role of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in the tolerance to heavy metals in ultramafic soils, the present study investigated the influence of two Glomus etunicatum isolates from New Caledonian ultramafic maquis (shrubland), on nickel tolerance of a model plant species Sorghum vulgare, and of two ultramafic endemic plant species, Alphitonia neocaledonica and Cloezia artensis. In a first step, plants were grown in a greenhouse, on sand with defined concentrations of Ni, to appreciate the effects of the two isolates on the alleviation of Ni toxicity in controlled conditions. In a second step, the influence of the AMF on A. neocaledonica and C. artensis plants grown in a New Caledonian ultramafic soil rich in extractable nickel was investigated. Ni reduced mycorrhizal colonization and sporulation of the fungal isolates, but the symbionts increased plant growth and adaptation of endemic plant species to ultramafic conditions. One of the two G. etunicatum isolates showed a stronger positive effect on plant biomass and phosphorus uptake, and a greater reduction in toxicity symptoms and Ni concentration in roots and shoots. The symbionts seemed to act as a barrier to the absorption of Ni by the plant and reduced root-to-shoot Ni translocation. Results indicate the potential of selected native AMF isolates from ultramafic areas for ecological restoration of such degraded ecosystems.