Belowground Mutualisms to Support Prairie Reconstruction—Improving Prairie Habitat Using Mycorrhizal Inoculum

Open-File Report 2022-1055
Land Management Research Program
Prepared in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, and University of Groningen
By: , and 



As a first step toward understanding the feasibility of using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in reconstruction practice, we addressed four objectives: (1) compare root-associated AMF communities of plants between high-quality remnant prairies and reconstructed prairies, (2) compare root-associated AMF communities between plant species that declined in reconstructions and species that were thriving, (3) compare AMF communities collected from roots of plants in geographically separate parts of Minnesota and Iowa, and (4) assess the relationship between AMF communities and soil abiotic factors. We collected soil and root samples in 8 prairies reconstructed in 2005 (and monitored through 2015) and 6 remnant prairies, and the samples were separated into 6 geographically determined clusters, each containing 1–2 reconstructions and 1 remnant. Sequencing was completed on 1,188 deoxyribonucleic acid extracts from individual plant root samples, and fungal sequences were clustered to operational taxonomic units at 97-percent identity. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling was used to visualize differences in species composition of AMF communities among plant species and field sites. Permutational analysis of variance was completed to test for differences in AMF community composition between the 2 types of sites (remnants and reconstructions), among plant species, and among the 6 site clusters. AMF communities differed between remnant and reconstructed prairies, with one exception, and AMF associated with individual plant species also tended to differ, depending on whether the plant species’ roots were collected from remnant or reconstructed prairie. On the other hand, we did not determine that, as a group, species in decline in the reconstructions we had monitored were more likely to harbor different AMF communities compared to species not in decline in the reconstructions. Significant interactions between site type and clusters indicate geographic variation in AMF communities. Total carbon and nitrogen, and organic matter, were higher in remnant soils, whereas phosphorus, which at high concentrations reduces the value of AMF to plants, was much higher in soils collected from reconstructions.

Suggested Citation

Vink, S.N., Aldrich-Wolfe, L., Huerd, S.C., Larson, J.L., Vacek, S.C., Drobney, P.M., Barnes, M., Viste-Sparkman, K., Jordan, N.R., and Larson, D.L., 2022, Belowground mutualisms to support prairie reconstruction—Improving prairie habitat using mycorrhizal inoculum: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2022–1055, 18 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Details of Sampled Sites
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Belowground mutualisms to support prairie reconstruction—Improving prairie habitat using mycorrhizal inoculum
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2022-1055
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221055
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description Report: vi, 18 p.; 2 Data Releases
Country United States
State Iowa, Minnesota
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details