Co-occurring Fungal Functional Groups Respond Differently to Tree Neighborhoods and Soil Properties Across Three Tropical Rainforests in Panama

  • Tyler SchappeEmail author
  • Felipe E. Albornoz
  • Benjamin L. Turner
  • F. Andrew JonesEmail author
Soil Microbiology


Abiotic and biotic drivers of co-occurring fungal functional guilds across regional-scale environmental gradients remain poorly understood. We characterized fungal communities using Illumina sequencing from soil cores collected across three Neotropical rainforests in Panama that vary in soil properties and plant community composition. We classified each fungal OTU into different functional guilds, namely plant pathogens, saprotrophs, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM), or ectomycorrhizal (ECM). We measured soil properties and nutrients within each core and determined the tree community composition and richness around each sampling core. Canonical correspondence analyses showed that soil pH and moisture were shared potential drivers of fungal communities for all guilds. However, partial the Mantel tests showed different strength of responses of fungal guilds to composition of trees and soils. Plant pathogens and saprotrophs were more strongly correlated with soil properties than with tree composition; ECM fungi showed a stronger correlation with tree composition than with soil properties; and AM fungi were correlated with soil properties, but not with trees. In conclusion, we show that co-occurring fungal guilds respond differently to abiotic and biotic environmental factors, depending on their ecological function. This highlights the joint role that abiotic and biotic factors play in determining composition of fungal communities, including those associated with plant hosts.


Mycorrhizal fungi Functional groups Soil phosphorus Microbial ecology ITS1 Metabarcoding Plant–soil (below ground) interactions Panama 



We thank members of the Jones Lab at Oregon State University Department of Botany & Plant Pathology for helpful comments on the manuscript and Dayana Agudo and Aleksandra Bielnicka for laboratory support.

Data Accessibility

Sequencing data are available in GenBank (Bioproject number PRJNA363090). Tree neighborhood, OTU table, root biomass, and soil property data are available in Dryad doi 10.5061/dryad.sc38s.

Funding Information

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) offered logistical support. Financial support for this work comes from Oregon State University and the National Science Foundation (DEB 1542681), a fellowship from Oregon State University, and an internship from STRI.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2019_1446_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2242 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Present address: Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Present address: School of Agriculture and EnvironmentThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  4. 4.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama

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