Common mycorrhizal networks provide a potential pathway for the transfer of hydraulically lifted water between plants

Louise M. Egerton-Warburton*, José Ignacio Querejeta, Michael F. Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Plant roots may be linked by shared or common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs) that constitute pathways for the transfer of resources among plants. The potential for water transfer by such networks was examined by manipulating CMNs independently of plant roots in order to isolate the role(s) of ectomycorrhizal (EM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) networks in the plant water balance during drought (soil water potential -5.9 MPa). Fluorescent tracer dyes and deuterium-enriched water were used to follow the pathways of water transfer from coastal live oak seedlings (Quercus agrifolia Nee; colonized by EM and AMF) conducting hydraulic lift (HL) into the roots of water-stressed seedlings connected only by EM (Q. agrifolia) or AMF networks (Q. agrifolia, Eriogonum fasciculatum Benth., Salvia mellifera Greene, Keckiella antirrhinoides Benth). When connected to donor plants by hyphal linkages, deuterium was detected in the transpiration flux of receiver oak plants, and dye-labelled extraradical hyphae, rhizomorphs, mantles, and Hartig nets were observed in receiver EM oak roots, and in AMF hyphae of Salvia. Hyphal labelling was scarce in Eriogonum and Keckiella since these species are less dependent on AMF. The observed patterns of dye distribution also indicated that only a small percentage of mycorrhizal roots and extraradical hyphae were involved with water transfer among plants. Our results suggest that the movement of water by CMNs is potentially important to plant survival during drought, and that the functional ecophysiological traits of individual mycorrhizal fungi may be a component of this mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1483
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Common mycorrhizal networks
  • Deuterium
  • Drought
  • Fluorescent tracers
  • Hydraulic lift
  • Quercus agrifolia
  • Rhizomorph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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