Plants differ greatly in the soil organisms colonizing their roots. However, how soil organism assemblages of individual plant roots can be influenced by plant community properties remains poorly understood.
We determined the composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in Jacobaea vulgaris plants, using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). The plants were collected from an experimental field site with sown and unsown plant communities. Natural colonization was allowed for 10 yr in sown and unsown plots. Unsown plant communities were more diverse and spatially heterogeneous than sown ones.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi diversity did not differ between sown and unsown plant communities, but there was higher AMF assemblage dissimilarity between individual plants in the unsown plant communities. When we grew J. vulgaris in field soil that was homogenized after collection in order to rule out spatial variation, no differences in AMF dissimilarity between sown and unsown plots were found.
Our study shows that experimental manipulation of plant communities in the field, and hence plant community assembly history, can influence the AMF communities of individual plants growing in those plant communities. This awareness is important when interpreting results from field surveys and experimental ecological studies in relation to plant–symbiont interactions.