The ability of a host plant to associate with different symbiotic partners affects ectomycorrhizal functioning
Some plants that associate with ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are also able to simultaneously establish symbiosis with other types of partners. The presence of alternative partners that may provide similar benefits may affect ECM functioning. Here we compared potential leucine-aminopeptidase (LA) and acid phosphatase (AP) enzyme activity (involved in N and P cycling, respectively) in ECM fungi of three hosts planted under the same conditions but differing in the type of partners: Pinus (ECM fungi only), Eucalyptus (ECM and arbuscular mycorrhizal -AM- fungi) and Acacia (ECM, AM fungi and rhizobial bacteria). We found that the ECM community on Acacia and Eucalyptus had higher potential AP activity than the Pinus community. The ECM community in Acacia also showed increased potential LA activity compared to Pinus. Morphotypes present in more than one host showed higher potential AP and LA activity when colonizing Acacia than when colonizing another host. Our results suggest that competition with AM fungi and rhizobial bacteria could promote increased ECM activity in Eucalyptus and Acacia. Alternatively, other host-related differences such as ECM community composition could also play a role. We found evidence for ECM physiological plasticity when colonizing different hosts, which might be key for adaptation to future climate scenarios.