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Host and habitat filtering in seedling root-associated fungal communities: taxonomic and functional diversity are altered in ‘novel’ soils

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Abstract

Climatic and land use changes have significant consequences for the distribution of tree species, both through natural dispersal processes and following management prescriptions. Responses to these changes will be expressed most strongly in seedlings near current species range boundaries. In northern temperate forest ecosystems, where changes are already being observed, ectomycorrhizal fungi contribute significantly to successful tree establishment. We hypothesised that communities of fungal symbionts might therefore play a role in facilitating, or limiting, host seedling range expansion. To test this hypothesis, ectomycorrhizal communities of interior Douglas-fir and interior lodgepole pine seedlings were analysed in a common greenhouse environment following growth in five soils collected along an ecosystem gradient. Currently, Douglas-fir’s natural distribution encompasses three of the five soils, whereas lodgepole pine’s extends much further north. Host filtering was evident amongst the 29 fungal species encountered: 7 were shared, 9 exclusive to Douglas-fir and 13 exclusive to lodgepole pine. Seedlings of both host species formed symbioses with each soil fungal community, thus Douglas-fir did so even where those soils came from outside its current distribution. However, these latter communities displayed significant taxonomic and functional differences to those found within the host distribution, indicative of habitat filtering. In contrast, lodgepole pine fungal communities displayed high functional similarity across the soil gradient. Taxonomic and/or functional shifts in Douglas-fir fungal communities may prove ecologically significant during the predicted northward migration of this species; especially in combination with changes in climate and management operations, such as seed transfer across geographical regions for forestry purposes.

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Acknowledgments

We thank A. Harris, J. Lawyer, J. Lee, C. Lim, J. Orlowsky, S. Robertson, N.-A. Rose and J. Salokannel for the field or lab assistance. Seeds were kindly provided by G. O’Neill and S. Reitenbach at the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. Two anonymous reviewers gave extremely helpful feedback on the manuscript. Funding was provided by the Forest Genetics Council of BC.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Brian J. Pickles.

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Pickles, B.J., Gorzelak, M.A., Green, D.S. et al. Host and habitat filtering in seedling root-associated fungal communities: taxonomic and functional diversity are altered in ‘novel’ soils. Mycorrhiza 25, 517–531 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00572-015-0630-y

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