Data from: Synergies between mycorrhizal fungi and soil microbial communities increase plant nitrogen acquisition

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Nitrogen availability often restricts primary productivity in terrestrial ecosystems. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are ubiquitous symbionts of terrestrial plants and can improve plant nitrogen acquisition, but have a limited ability to access organic nitrogen. Although other soil biota mineralize organic nitrogen into bioavailable forms, they may simultaneously compete for nitrogen, with unknown consequences for plant nutrition. Here we show that synergies between the mycorrhizal fungus Rhizophagus irregularis and soil microbial communities have a highly non-additive effect on nitrogen acquisition by the model grass Brachypodium distachyon. These multipartite microbial synergies result in a doubling of the nitrogen that mycorrhizal plants acquire from organic matter and a tenfold increase in nitrogen acquisition compared to non-mycorrhizal plants grown in the absence of soil microbial communities. This previously unquantified multipartite relationship may contribute to more than 70 Tg of annually assimilated plant nitrogen, thereby playing a critical role in global nutrient cycling and ecosystem function.

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This work was supported in part by Cornell University's David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. R.H. acknowledges support from the NSF IGERT Program (DGE-0903371 and DGE-1069193) and the NSF GRFP (DGE-1144153). This material is partly based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research under Award Number DE-SC0018409, work funded by the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (DOE BER Office of Science DE-FC02-07ER64494), by the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1637653) at the Kellogg Biological Station, and Michigan State University AgBioResearch. E.C.H. acknowledges funding from the Swedish research council (VR-621-2014-5912) and the BECC environment. C.W.M acknowledges funding from DFG (MU 3021/4-2).

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nitrogen; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; synergistic interactions; soil microbial communities; organic matter


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