Testing Effects of Mycorrhizal Fungi on Growth and Development of Abronia macrocarpa
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Endangered and threatened species require various management plans for recovery, many of which include reintroductions. Abronia macrocarpa, an endangered Texas endemic plant species, has been suggested as a potential candidate for reintroduction. Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi has been a component of reintroduction plans for some species. Mycorrhizal fungi have a mutualistic, obligatory symbiotic relationship with most higher-order plants. They can increase their host’s uptake of nutrients such as P, N, and K, increase plant growth, reduce saline and alkaline toxicity, and increase drought resistance. The effects of mycorrhizae on A. macrocarpa had not been studied. I hypothesized that growth and development of A. macrocarpa would be increased when plants were inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi. I established 3 transects on private property in Freestone County, TX with 6 plots each. Half of the plots were randomly selected to be planted with inoculated seed while the other half were planted with seed coated with autoclaved inoculant as a control. I collected data for two years and analyzed measurements of growth and development. Results indicated that growth was significantly improved by inoculation in the first year after germination. Mean number of leaves per plant was greater in treatment plots in March 2011 (P = 0.00544), and mean aerial diameter of plants in treatment plots was larger in April 2011 (P = 0.018). Plants in treatment plots were also larger in aerial diameter and height in the second year of growth. However, these differences were not statistically significant. Germination, survivorship, and development were not affected by treatment, but there was some observable variation in germination due to transect. This suggests that A. macrocarpa is extremely sensitive to variations in microhabitat. Positive results in the first year of growth warrant further study of mycorrhizal interaction with this species.