Relative Importance of Individual Climatic Drivers Shaping Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Communities
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The physiological tolerance hypothesis (PTH) postulates that it is the tolerance of species to climatic factors that determines overall community richness. Here, we tested whether a group of mutualistic microbes, Glomeromycota, is distributed in semi-arid environments in ways congruent with the PTH. For this purpose, we modeled with climatic predictors the niche of each of the four orders of Glomeromycota and identified predictors of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal operational taxonomic unit (OTU) richness. Our dataset consisted of 50 paired grassland and farmland sites in the farming-pastoral ecotone of northern China. We observed shifts in the relative abundance of AM fungal orders in response to climatic variables but also declines in OTU richness in grassland sites that had experienced high precipitation during the preceding year which was incongruous with the PTH. We found pronounced differences across groups of Glomeromycotan fungi in their responses to climatic variables and identified strong dependencies of AM fungal communities on precipitation. Given that precipitation is expected to further decline in the farming-pastoral ecotone over the coming years and that mycorrhiza represents an integral constituent of ecosystem functioning, it is likely that the ecosystem services in the region will change accordingly.
KeywordsArbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Grasslands Physiological tolerance hypothesis Ecological niche modeling Farming-pastoral ecotone
This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41371264; 41071178) and State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, China (SKLURE2012-1-03).
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