We assessed the total length of external arbuscular mycorrhizal hyphae as a function of plant species and functional form richness in restored northern tallgrass prairies. Total hyphal length increased with species and functional form richness. Hyphal length also increased when plant communities were dominated by species with high root density, high root to shoot ratios, and high nitrogen use efficiency. Hyphal length was positively correlated with the biomass of late successional C4 grasses (Andropogon gerardi Vitman, Panicum virgatum L., Schizachyrium scoparium [Michx.] Nash-Gould, and Sorghastrum nutans L.), which are obligately mycorrhizal and characterized by high root to shoot ratios, and high root surface area per unit of root biomass. We thus conclude that in order to recover extraradical arbuscular mycorrhizal hyphal length in restored northern tallgrass prairies, at least three factors need to be given priority: 1) achieving high levels of species and functional form richness; 2) making sure that late successional C4 grasses are present; and 3) making sure that the seed mixture includes species that are characterized by high root to shoot ratio, high root density, and high nitrogen-use efficiency.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1