University of Tartu scientists show that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are globally distributed | University of Tartu
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Contacts of UT units

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty phone: 
(+372) 737 5341
Faculty address: 
Jakobi 2 - 116-121, 51014, Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5341
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 116 - 121, 51014, Tartu
  • Institute of History and Archaeology
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5651
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51003, Tartu
  • Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5221
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51014, Tartu
  • Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5314
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, III, rooms 309-352, 51014, Tartu
  • Institute of Cultural Research
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5223
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 16, 51003, Tartu
  • School of Theology and Religious Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5301
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18-310, 50090, Tartu
  • College of Foreign Languages and Cultures
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 3, 51003, Tartu
  • Viljandi Culture Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 435 5232
    Faculty address: 
    Posti 1, 71004, Viljandi
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty phone: 
(+372) 737 5957
Faculty address: 
Lossi 36, 51003, Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5900
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, 51003, Tartu
  • Institute of Education
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6440
    Faculty address: 
    Salme 1a, room 29, 50103, Tartu
  • Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5582
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, roomm 301, 51003, Tartu
  • School of Economics and Business Administration
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6310
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 4, 50409, Tartu
  • Institute of Psychology
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5902
    Faculty address: 
    Näituse 2, 50409, Tartu
  • School of Law
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5390
    Faculty address: 
    Näituse 20, 50409, Tartu
  • Institute of Social Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5188
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, 51003, Tartu
  • Narva College
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 740 1900
    Faculty address: 
    Raekoja plats 2, 20307, Narva
  • Pärnu College
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 445 0520
    Faculty address: 
    Ringi 35, 80012, Pärnu
Faculty of Medicine
Faculty phone: 
(+372) 737 5326
Faculty address: 
Ravila 19, 50411, Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5326
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine
    Faculty phone: 
    +(372) 737 4210
    Faculty address: 
    Biomeedikum, Ravila 19, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Pharmacy
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5286
    Faculty address: 
    Nooruse 1, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Dentistry
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 731 9856
    Faculty address: 
    Raekoja plats 6, 51003, Tartu
  • Institute of Clinical Medicine
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5323
    Faculty address: 
    L. Puusepa 8, 51014, Tartu, Eesti
  • Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 4190
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5360
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 5-205, 51014, Tartu
Faculty of Science and Technology
Faculty phone: 
(+372) 737 5820
Faculty address: 
Vanemuise 46-208, 51014, Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5820
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46 - 208, 51014, Tartu
  • Institute of Computer Science
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5445
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 2, 50409, Tartu
  • Estonian Marine Institute
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 671 8902
    Faculty address: 
    Mäealuse 14, 12618, Tallinn
  • Institute of Physics
    Faculty address: 
    W. Ostwaldi Str 1, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Chemistry
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5261
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 14a, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Mathematics and Statistics
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5860
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 2, 50409, Tartu
  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5011
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23, 23b-134, 51010, Tartu
  • Institute of Technology
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 4800
    Faculty address: 
    Nooruse 1, 50411, Tartu
  • Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5835
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51014, Tartu
Institutions
  • Library
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5702
    Faculty address: 
    W.Struve 1, 50091, Tartu
  • Youth Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5581
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 38, 51003, Tartu
  • Estonian Genome Center
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 4000
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23b, 51010, Tartu
  • Museum
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5674
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 25, 51014, Tartu
  • University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6076
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51014, Tartu
Support Units
  • Administrative Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5606
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51014, Tartu
  • University Office in Tallinn
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6600
    Faculty address: 
    Teatri väljak 3, 10143 Tallinn
  • Estates Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5137
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51014, Tartu
  • Finance Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5125
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 4, 51014, Tartu
  • Information Technology Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6000, arvutiabi: 737 5500
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51014, Tartu
  • Internal Audit Office
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 17-114, 51014, Tartu
  • Marketing and Communication Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5687
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, ruum 210, 50090, Tartu
  • Office of Academic Affairs
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6215
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090, Tartu
  • Office of Research and Development
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 6192
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 3, III korrus, 51003, Tartu
  • Human Resources Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5145
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, rooms 302 and 304, 50090, Tartu
  • Rector's Strategy Office
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5600
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 51014, Tartu
  • Student Council
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5400
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18b, 51014, Tartu
Other Units
  • University of Tartu Academic Sports Club
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5371
    Faculty address: 
    Ujula 4, 51008 Tartu
  • Tartu Student Village
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 740 9959
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 25, 51013 Tartu
  • Tartu Students’ Club
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 730 2400
    Faculty address: 
    Kalevi 24, 51010 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Press
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5945
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
  • Tartu University Hospital
    Faculty address: 
    L. Puusepa 1a, 50406 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Foundation
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5852
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • View all other units

University of Tartu scientists show that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are globally distributed

In a recently published paper in Science, the University of Tartu’s plant ecology group, led by Prof. Martin Zobel, present the first global-scale empirical study of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal biogeography. Project fieldwork lasted from 2007 to 2012 and resulted in collection of 1014 environmental samples from six continents. The group’s results showed that many AM fungi are globally distributed but nonetheless require careful conservation.

The successful growth of 80% of plant species, including the majority of crop plants, depends on microscopic root symbiotic AM fungi. Indeed, plant productivity and diversity in both natural and anthropogenic habitats is strongly influenced by the presence and diversity of these fungi.

However, the global biogeography of AM fungi and drivers of their distribution are largely unknown. As such information is essential for predicting and mitigating losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the University of Tartu’s plant ecology group and their international co-authors conducted a global-scale empirical study of AM fungal biogeography.

Using high-throughput DNA sequencing to identify AM fungi in their samples, they found that many (34%) AM fungal taxa exhibit a global distribution, while almost all (93%) are present on multiple continents. This result was unexpected because AM fungi have been assumed to be poor dispersers.

“We started this line of research over 10 years ago by addressing AM fungal diversity in local habitats. We soon realized, however, that we cannot explain local diversity patterns and processes without looking at the broader picture. Our efforts began to snowball, and we ended up with this first systematic global overview of the diversity and distribution of these important symbiotic microbes,” Professor Martin Zobel, head of the plant ecology lab at University of Tartu and center of excellence ‘Frontiers in biodiversity research’ says.

“It was a major challenge to analyze such a complex and comprehensive data set,“ Dr. John Davison, researcher in the plant ecology lab at University of Tartu, added. “While we started by analyzing taxon distributions and the composition of AM fungal communities, the emerging patterns stimulated us to integrate phylogenetic information as well. Rapidly evolving molecular technologies are demanding parallel advances in data storage, bioinformatics and statistical approaches. We are now able to examine cryptic biodiversity with a depth and detail that would have seemed fanciful even a decade ago.”

Despite the wide distributions of AM fungal taxa, AM fungal communities are shaped by local environmental conditions and landscape configurations. Progressive loss and fragmentation of habitats may therefore lead to a situation where ecosystems lack the symbiotic fungi that are essential for sustainable ecosystem functioning, the research group emphasizes.

The wide distributions of AM fungi revealed by the study also raise several new questions, according to the group. Future studies can help to explain how the fungi achieve such efficient dispersal. Another focus of research will be to understand whether the symbiotic characteristics of widespread taxa remain constant throughout their ranges.   

In addition to the core authors Martin Zobel, John A. Davis, UT’s Senior Research Fellow in Plant Ecology Mari Moora and UT’s Senior Research Fellow in Plant Ecology Maarja Öpik, co-authors included eight researchers from the UT Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences and colleagues from the USA, India and Senegal.

 The paper Davison et al. (2015) “Global assessment of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus diversity reveals very low endemism” was published in Science at 28 August 2015.

Conducting the study was made possible thanks to an extensive international collaborative network and the financial support of the center of excellence FIBIR.

Additional information: Martin Zobel, Professor of Plant Ecology at the University of Tartu, phone: +372 737 6223, +372 518 7723, e-mail: martin.zobel [ät] ut.ee.
John Davison, Research Fellow at the University of Tartu, e-mail: john.davison [ät] ut.ee.

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