Once abandoned, urban and post-industrial lands can undergo a re-greening, the natural regeneration and succession that leads to surprisingly healthy plant communities, but this process is dependent upon microbial activity and the health of the parent soil. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in facilitating plant production in post-industrial soils. In so doing, we helped to resolve the mechanism through which AMF ameliorate environmental stress in terrestrial plants. An experiment was established in which rye grass (Lolium perenne) was grown in two heavy metal-contaminated soils from an urban brownfield in New Jersey, USA, and one non-contaminated control soil. One set of the treatments received an AMF inoculum (four species in a commercial mix: Glomus intraradices, G. mosseae, G. etunicatum and G. aggregatum) and the other did not. Upon harvest, dried plant biomass, root/shoot ratio, AMF colonization, and extracellular soil phosphatase activity, a proxy for soil microbial functioning, were all measured. Plant biomass increased across all treatments inoculated with AMF, with a significantly higher average shoot and root mass compared to non-inoculated treatments. AMF colonization of the roots in contaminated soil was significantly higher than colonization in control soil, and the root/shoot ratio of plants in contaminated soils was also higher when colonized by AMF. Mycorrhizal infection may help plants to overcome the production limits of post-industrial soils as is seen here with increased infection and growth. The application of this mechanistic understanding to remediation and restoration strategies will improve soil health and plant production in urban environments.
- Plant growth