Arbuscular mycorrhizae, which are plant root-fungal symbioses, are common associates of vascular plants. Such relationships, however, are thought to be rare in wetland plant roots, although several recent studies suggest that arbuscular mycorrhizae may be important in wetland ecosystems. Our objectives were to determine (1) the level of arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of plant roots in three freshwater marshes and (2) the effect of restoration status, hydrologic zone, and plant species identity on mycorrhizal colonization. We quantified the percentage of plant roots colonized by mycorrhizal fungi in one reference and two restored freshwater marshes in northern Indiana, USA during summer 1999. Roots were collected from soil cores taken around dominant plant species present in each of three hydrologic zones and then stained for microscopic examination of mycorrhizal colonization. Mycorrhizae were present in each wetland, in all hydrologic zones and in all sampled plants, including Carex and Scirpus species previously thought to be non-mycorrhizal. Both restored and reference wetlands had moderate levels of mycorrhizal colonization, but no clear trends in colonization were seen with hydrologic zone, which has been hypothesized to regulate the formation of mycorrhizae in wetlands. Mycorrhizal colonization levels in the roots of individual species ranged from 3 to 90% and were particularly large in members of the Poaceae (grass) family. Our results suggest that arbuscular mycorrhizae may be widely distributed across plant species and hydrologic zones in both restored and reference freshwater marshes. Thus, future research should examine the functional role of mycorrhizal fungi in freshwater wetlands.
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