Saline soils around Lake Urmia in northern Iran constitute a stressed environment for plants and microbial communities, including arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Soil and root samples were collected from fields cultivated with the glycophytes Allium cepa L. and Medicago sativa L, and sites dominated by the halophyte Salicornia europaea L. Soil and root samples were analyzed for the AM fungal signature neutral lipid fatty acid (NLFA) 16:1 omega 5. The roots were also examined microscopically for mycorrhizal colonization. Each plant species was sampled across a salt gradient. Microscopic examination showed no AM fungal structures in the roots of S. europaea. The highest root colonization was recorded for M. sativa. The highest NLFA 16:1 omega 5 values were found in soil around M. sativa roots and the lowest in soil around S. europaea roots. We found evidence for stimulation of vesicle formation at moderate salinity levels in M. sativa, which is an indication of increased carbon allocation to mycorrhiza. On the other hand, we found a negative correlation between salinity and arbuscule formation in A. cepa, which may indicate a less functional symbiosis in saline soils. (C) 2013 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.