Does warming by open-top chambers induce change in the root-associated fungal community of the arctic dwarf shrub Cassiope tetragona (Ericaceae)?
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Climate change may alter mycorrhizal communities, which impact ecosystem characteristics such as carbon sequestration processes. These impacts occur at a greater magnitude in Arctic ecosystems, where the climate is warming faster than in lower latitudes. Cassiope tetragona (L.) D. Don is an Arctic plant species in the Ericaceae family with a circumpolar range. C. tetragona has been reported to form ericoid mycorrhizal (ErM) as well as ectomycorrhizal (ECM) symbioses. In this study, the fungal taxa present within roots of C. tetragona plants collected from Svalbard were investigated using DNA metabarcoding. In light of ongoing climate change in the Arctic, the effects of artificial warming by open-top chambers (OTCs) on the fungal root community of C. tetragona were evaluated. We detected only a weak effect of warming by OTCs on the root-associated fungal communities that was masked by the spatial variation between sampling sites. The root fungal community of C. tetragona was dominated by fungal groups in the Basidiomycota traditionally classified as either saprotrophic or ECM symbionts, including the orders Sebacinales and Agaricales and the genera Clavaria, Cortinarius, and Mycena. Only a minor proportion of the operational taxonomic units (OTUs) could be annotated as ErM-forming fungi. This indicates that C. tetragona may be forming mycorrhizal symbioses with typically ECM-forming fungi, although no characteristic ECM root tips were observed. Previous studies have indicated that some saprophytic fungi may also be involved in biotrophic associations, but whether the saprotrophic fungi in the roots of C. tetragona are involved in biotrophic associations remains unclear. The need for more experimental and microscopy-based studies to reveal the nature of the fungal associations in C. tetragona roots is emphasized.
KeywordsCassiope tetragona Ericoid mycorrhiza Ectomycorrhiza Svalbard Open-top chambers OTCs Arctic Climate change Root-associated fungi High-throughput sequencing
The University of Oslo and UNIS are acknowledged for the financial support and for providing lab facilities, while the Research Council of Norway and Svalbard Science Forum are acknowledged for the travel support. Kevin Newsham, David Read, and Ulrik Sochting kindly provided microscopy pictures of Cassiope plant roots.
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