The diversity, ecology and function of ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi and ectomycorrhizas (ECMs) on tropical African tree species are reviewed here. While ECMs are the most frequent mycorrhizal type in temperate and boreal forests, they concern an economically and ecologically important minority of plants in African tropical forests. In these African tropical forests, ECMs are found mainly on caesalpionioid legumes, Sarcolaenaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Asterpeiaceae, Phyllantaceae, Sapotaceae, Papilionoideae, Gnetaceae and Proteaceae, and distributed in open, gallery and rainforests of the Guineo-Congolian basin, Zambezian Miombo woodlands of East and South-Central Africa and Sudanian savannah woodlands of the sub-sahara. Overall, EM status was confirmed in 93 (26%) among 354 tree species belonging to EM genera. In addition, 195 fungal taxa were identified using morphological descriptions and sequencing of the ML5/ML6 fragment of sporocarps and ECMs from West Africa. Analyses of the belowground EM fungal communities mostly based on fungal internal transcribed spacer sequences of ECMs from Continental Africa, Madagascar and the Seychelles also revealed more than 350 putative species of EM fungi belonging mainly to 18 phylogenetic lineages. As in temperate forests, the /russula–lactarius and /tomentella–thelephora lineages dominated EM fungal flora in tropical Africa. A low level of host preference and dominance of multi-host fungal taxa on different African adult tree species and their seedlings were revealed, suggesting a potential for the formation of common ectomycorrhizal networks. Moreover, the EM inoculum potential in terms of types and density of propagules (spores, sclerotia, EM root fragments and fragments of mycelia strands) in the soil allowed opportunistic root colonisation as well as long-term survival in the soil during the dry season. These are important characteristics when choosing an EM fungus for field application. In this respect, Thelephoroid fungal sp. XM002, an efficient and competitive broad host range EM fungus, possessed these characteristics and appeared to be a good candidate for artificial inoculation of Caesalps and Phyllanthaceae seedlings in nurseries. However, further efforts should be made to assess the genetic and functional diversity of African EM fungi as well as the EM status of unstudied plant species and to strengthen the use of efficient and competitive EM fungi to improve production of ecologically and economically important African multipurpose trees in plantations.
|Number of pages||29|
|Early online date||12 Oct 2011|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2012|