Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) may exert profound influences on ecosystem resilience and invasion resistance in rangelands. Maintenance of plant community structure through ecological feedback mechanisms such as facilitation of nutrient cycling and uptake by host plants, physical and chemical contributions to soil structural stability, and mediation of plant competition suggest AMF may be important facilitators in stressful arid environments. Plant-AMF interactions could influence succession by increasing native plant community resilience to drought, grazing, and fire and resistance to exotic plant invasion. However, invasive exotic plants may benefit from associations with, as well as alter, native AMF communities. Furthermore, questions remain on the role of AMF in stressful environments, specifically the mycorrhizal dependency of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe plant species. Here, we review scientific literature relevant to AMF in rangelands, with specific focus on impacts of land management, disturbance, and invasion on AMF communities in sagebrush steppe. We highlight the nature of AMF ecology as it relates to rangelands and discuss the methods used to measure mycorrhizal responsiveness. Our review found compelling evidence that AMF mediation of resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasion varies with plant and fungal community composition, including plant mycorrhizal host status, plant functional guild, and physiological adaptations to disturbance in both plants and fungi. We conclude by outlining a framework to advance knowledge of AMF in rangeland invasion ecology. Understanding the role of AMF in semiarid sagebrush steppe ecosystems will likely require multiple study approaches due to the highly variable nature of plant-AMF interactions, the complex mechanisms of resilience conference, and the unknown thresholds for responses to environmental stressors. This may require shifting away from the plant biomass paradigm of assessing mycorrhizal benefits in order to obtain a more holistic view of plant dependency on AMF, or lack thereof, in sagebrush steppe and other semiarid ecosystems.
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Vol. 72 • No. 4