Microbial Ecology

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 725–736 | Cite as

Home-Field Advantage in Wood Decomposition Is Mainly Mediated by Fungal Community Shifts at “Home” Versus “Away”

  • Witoon PurahongEmail author
  • Tiemo Kahl
  • Dirk Krüger
  • François Buscot
  • Björn HoppeEmail author
Soil Microbiology


The home-field advantage (HFA) hypothesis has been used intensively to study leaf litter decomposition in various ecosystems. However, the HFA in woody substrates is still unexplored. Here, we reanalyzed and integrated existing datasets on various groups of microorganisms collected from natural deadwood of two temperate trees, Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies, from forests in which one or other of these species dominates but where both are present. Our aims were (i) to test the HFA hypothesis on wood decomposition rates of these two temperate tree species, and (ii) to investigate if HFA hypothesis can be explained by diversity and community composition of bacteria and in detail N-fixing bacteria (as determined by molecular 16S rRNA and nifH gene amplification) and fungi (as determined by molecular ITS rRNA amplification and sporocarp surveys). Our results showed that wood decomposition rates were accelerated at “home” versus “away” by 38.19% ± 20.04% (mean ± SE). We detected strong changes in fungal richness (increase 36–50%) and community composition (RANOSIM = 0.52–0.60, P < 0.05) according to HFA hypothesis. The changes of fungi were much stronger than for total bacteria and nitrogen fixing for both at richness and community composition levels. In conclusion, our results support the HFA hypothesis in deadwood: decomposition rate is accelerated at home due to specialization of fungal communities produced by the plant community above them. Furthermore, the higher richness of fungal sporocarps and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (nifH) may stimulate or at least stabilize wood decomposition rates at “home” versus “away.”


Home-field advantage (HFA) Microbial communities Nitrogen-fixing bacteria Deadwood Wood decay rate Decomposition Next-generation sequencing 



We thank the managers of the three Exploratories, Swen Renner, Sonja Gockel, and Andreas Hemp, and all former managers for their work in maintaining the plot and project infrastructure; Simone Pfeffer, Maren Gleisberg, and Christiane Fischer, and all members at BEO for giving support through the central office; Jens Nieschulze for managing the central data base; and Markus Fischer, Eduard Linsenmair, Dominik Hessenmöller, Daniel Prati, Ingo Schöning, François Buscot, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Wolfgang W. Weisser, and the late Elisabeth Kalko for their role in setting up the Biodiversity Exploratories project.

Availability of Data and Material

The dataset analyzed during this study are included in this manuscript as Supplementary material files. The raw sequence data for the ITS and 16S pyrosequencing datasets are available from the NCBI Sequence Read Archive ( under experiments SRX589508 and SRX589509, respectively. New nifH nucleotide sequences and their MOTU (molecular operational taxonomic unit) assignments are available under accession numbers HF559482-HF560561.

Authors’ Contributions

WP conceived the ideas. TK, DK, and BH collected the data. WP, BH, and FB designed methodology. WP and BH analyzed data; WP and BH led the writing of the manuscript with substantial contributions of all co-authors.


The work has been (partly) funded by the DFG Priority Program 1374 “Infrastructure-Biodiversity-Exploratories” (KR 3587/1-1, KR 3587/3-2, BU 941/17-1).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethics Statement

Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental offices of Baden-Württemberg, Thüringen, and Brandenburg (according to § 72 BbgNatSchG).

Consent for Publication

The manuscript does not contain any individual person’s data in any form. The image contained in this manuscript was generated by the authors.

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

248_2019_1334_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (382 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 381 kb)
248_2019_1334_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (50 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 50 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Soil EcologyHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, Chair of SilvicultureUniversity of FreiburgFreiburg i. Brsg.Germany
  3. 3.UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Thuringian ForestSchmiedefeld am RennsteigGermany
  4. 4.German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  5. 5.Julius Kühn-Institute, Institute for National and International Plant HealthBraunschweigGermany

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