Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal diversity in high-altitude hypersaline Andean wetlands studied by 454-sequencing and morphological approaches
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The Laguna Brava Nature Reserve is a stressful habitat in the Andean Mountains (Argentina) dominated by extreme abiotic factors: high altitude and UV radiance, hypersalinity, alkalinity, and high concentrations of toxic elements in the soil. The sparse native vegetation that inhabits Laguna Brava and Mulas Muertas wetlands is frequently colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. It is, however, unknown which AM species can survive in such a harsh environment and how those environmental conditions influence the AM communities. To answer these questions, 454-amplicon pyrosequencing and morphological (based on spore traits) approaches were used to assess fungal diversity. A total of 23 molecular operational taxonomic units and 14 distinct morphospecies of AM fungi were identified. The morphological characterization of AM fungal communities in Laguna Brava and Mulas Muertas, supported by the molecular data, revealed that Glomeraceae and Claroideoglomeraceae were the dominant families, confirming the predominance of generalist and ruderal AM fungal taxa but with stress-tolerant life history traits. Our results showed that the presence of AM fungi is strongly associated with local environmental variations in Laguna Brava (hypersalinity and high Na+, Sr, As and U contents in soils). The AM fungal communities in Laguna Brava and Mulas Muertas wetlands were similar according to the Simpson diversity index and the ecological distance estimated by Bray Curtis index. These results were also supported by the environmental parameters measured, as they did not vary between the studied sites. This study represents the first characterization of AM fungal community in a high-altitude Andean wetland in Argentina, improving our knowledge about these fungi from extreme environments.
KeywordsArbuscular mycorrhizal fungi High-altitude wetlands Extreme environment Salinity Heavy metal Pyrosequencing
We wish to thank to Universidad de Buenos Aires, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas and Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica for the financial support, and Secretaría de Ambiente de La Rioja for providing the sampling permission at the Laguna Brava Nature Reserve. We also acknowledge to Dr. Carbonetto María Belén and Dr. Rascován Nicolás (Instituto de Agrobiotecnologia Rosario, INDEAR) for their technical assistance, and Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica for heavy metals determinations. We appreciate the valuable suggestions of editors and reviewers that have substantially improved our manuscript.
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