• Can common mycorrhizal fungal networks be managed to enhance ecosystem functionality?

      Alaux, Pierre‐Louis; orcid: 0000-0002-2518-7911; email: pierre-louis.alaux@manchester.ac.uk; Zhang, Yaqian; orcid: 0000-0002-7172-4503; Gilbert, Lucy; orcid: 0000-0002-9139-8450; Johnson, David; orcid: 0000-0003-2299-2525 (2021-02-02)
      Societal Impact Statement: Mycorrhizal fungi are key components of soil biodiversity that offer potential to provide sustainable solutions for land management, notably in agriculture and forestry. Several studies conducted in controlled environments show that key functional attributes of common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs), which inter‐link different plants, are influenced by management practices. Here, we highlight the need to consider how land management affects the ubiquity and function of CMNs in nature to maximize the role of mycorrhizal fungi in enhancing ecosystem services. We emphasize that CMNs can sometimes negatively affect aspects of plant performance, but there remain major gaps in understanding before explicit consideration of CMN management can be delivered. Summary: Most mycorrhizal fungi have the capacity to develop extensive extraradical mycelium, and thus have the potential to connect multiple plants and form a ‘common mycorrhizal network’. Several studies have shown that these networks can influence plant establishment, nutrition, productivity and defense, nutrient distribution and storage, and multitrophic interactions. However, many of these studies have focused on the importance of common mycorrhizal networks in ecological contexts and there has been less emphasis in managed systems, including croplands, grassland, agroforestry and forestry, on which humankind relies. Here we review the evidence of the potential importance of common mycorrhizal networks in managed systems, and provide insight into how these networks could be managed effectively to maximize the functions and outputs from managed systems. We also emphasize possible negative effects of common mycorrhizal networks on plant performance and question popular views that mycorrhizal networks may offer a panacea for enhancing ecosystem services. We highlight the need to gain greater insight into the ubiquity, functioning, and response to management interventions of common mycorrhizal networks and, critically, the need to determine the extent to which these networks can add value to the promotion of mycorrhizal colonization.