SIAM (Sex-specific Interactions in Arbuscular Mycorrhizas in an ecological community context) is a Marie Curie Intra-European research project aimed at exploring and understanding plant-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal interactions in a more realistic multi-trophic context. The project is hosted at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.
The importance of below-ground organisms for plant growth, plant community dynamics and ecosystem processes is widely recognised. Among them, arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses are key elements as they mediate plant resource acquisition. The effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on plant fitness have been extensively studied in sexually monomorphic plants, but plant populations with separate sexes are relatively common in nature. Usually sexes differ in their resource needs and allocation patterns. Because arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses mediate resource acquisition and allocation patterns through imposing both costs and benefits to the plants, it is not surprising that sex-specific interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and sexually dimorphic plants occur. Most available studies on this topic have been exclusively focused on two trophic levels, neglecting the fact that plants live in complex multi-trophic scenarios, where both mutualistic and antagonistic relationships interact both above- and below-ground.