Fast-growing plant species are plentiful at the early stages of succession and possess roots with greater capacity for soil exploration than slow-growing plant species of late stages. Thus, the dynamics of fine-root production, morphological traits and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) infection intensity were assessed monthly over 1 y in the grassland, scrub, secondary and mature forests of the Atlantic Forest ecosystem, amounting to 13 consecutive samplings. Fine roots were sampled in three 100 × 100-m plots at each study site. Each plot was subdivided in five 20 × 100-m subplots and 15 soil samples were randomly taken from a depth of 0–5 cm in soil within each plot. The average of the fine-root dry mass increased from 1.39 mg cm−3 soil in the grassland to 3.37 mg cm−3 in the secondary forest; fine-root tip diameter varied from 146 μm in the grassland to 303 μm in the mature forest; tissue density from 0.24 g cm−3 root in the grassland to 0.30 g cm−3 in the mature forest and fine-root length was 4.52 cm cm−3 soil in the grassland and 6.48 cm cm−3 soil in the secondary forest. On the other hand, fine-root specific length decreased from 43.9 m g−1 root to 18.3 m g−1 root in the mature forest; incidence of root hairs was 67% in the grassland and 30% in the mature forest; the length of root hairs was 215 μm in the grassland and 112 μm in the mature forest; and the intensity of AMF infection decreased from 66% in the grassland to 17% in the mature forest. In addition to AMF infection, the environmental variation also affected dry mass production and morphological traits of fine roots. During the cool season, fine-root dry mass, fine-root length, incidence and length of root hairs and intensity of AMF infection decreased compared with the warm season. We verified that the potential for soil exploration, that expresses the capacity for nutrient acquisition via fine roots and AMF infection intensity, decreased during the cool season and with the advance of the successional groups. These results indicate that fine-root traits and intensity of AMF infection are influenced by the intrinsic nutrient requirements of the plant species in each ecological group.