Neighboring trees affect ectomycorrhizal fungal community composition in a woodland-forest ecotone
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- Hubert, N.A. & Gehring, C.A. Mycorrhiza (2008) 18: 363. doi:10.1007/s00572-008-0185-2
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Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) are frequently species rich and functionally diverse; yet, our knowledge of the environmental factors that influence local EMF diversity and species composition remains poor. In particular, little is known about the influence of neighboring plants on EMF community structure. We tested the hypothesis that the EMF of plants with heterospecific neighbors would differ in species richness and community composition from the EMF of plants with conspecific neighbors. We conducted our study at the ecotone between pinyon (Pinus edulis)–juniper (Juniperus monosperma) woodland and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest in northern Arizona, USA where the dominant trees formed associations with either EMF (P. edulis and P. ponderosa) or arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF; J. monosperma). We also compared the EMF communities of pinyon and ponderosa pines where their rhizospheres overlapped. The EMF community composition, but not species richness of pinyon pines was significantly influenced by neighboring AM juniper, but not by neighboring EM ponderosa pine. Ponderosa pine EMF communities were different in species composition when growing in association with pinyon pine than when growing in association with a conspecific. The EMF communities of pinyon and ponderosa pines were similar where their rhizospheres overlapped consisting of primarily the same species in similar relative abundance. Our findings suggest that neighboring tree species identity shaped EMF community structure, but that these effects were specific to host-neighbor combinations. The overlap in community composition between pinyon pine and ponderosa pine suggests that these tree species may serve as reservoirs of EMF inoculum for one another.