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Title: Ectomycorrhizal Plant-Fungal Co-invasions as Natural Experiments for Connecting Plant and Fungal Traits to Their Ecosystem Consequences
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Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Understanding the origins and maintenance of host specificity, or why horizontally‐acquired symbionts associate with some hosts but not others, remains elusive. In this study, we explored whether patterns of host specificity in foliar fungal endophytes, a guild of highly diverse fungi that occur within the photosynthetic tissues of all major plant lineages, were related to characteristics of the plant community. We comprehensively sampled all plant host species within a single community and tested the relationship between plant abundance or plant evolutionary relatedness and metrics of endophyte host specificity. We quantified host specificity with methods that considered the total endophyte community per plant host (i.e., multivariate methods) along with species‐based methods (i.e., univariate metrics) that considered host specificity from the perspective of each endophyte. Univariate host specificity metrics quantified plant alpha‐diversity (structural specificity), plant beta‐diversity (beta‐specificity), and plant phylogenetic diversity (phylogenetic specificity) per endophyte. We standardized the effect sizes of univariate host specificity metrics to randomized distributions to avoid spurious correlations between host specificity metrics and endophyte abundance. We found that more abundant plant species harbored endophytes that occupied fewer plant species (higher structural specificity) and were consistently found in the same plant species across the landscape (higher beta‐specificity). There was no relationship between plant phylogenetic distance and endophyte community dissimilarity. We still found that endophyte community composition significantly varied among plant species, families, and major groups, supporting a plant identity effect. In particular, endophytes in angiosperm lineages associated with narrower phylogenetic breadths of plants (higher phylogenetic specificity) compared to endophytes within conifer and fern lineages. Overall, an effect of plant species abundance may help explain why horizontally‐transmitted endophytes vary geographically within host species ranges.

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  3. The symbiotic interaction between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi is often perceived as beneficial for both partners, though a large ecological literature highlights the context dependency of this interaction. Changes in abiotic variables, such as nutrient availability, can drive the interaction along the mutualism-parasitism continuum with variable outcomes for plant growth and fitness. However, AM fungi can benefit plants in more ways than improved phosphorus nutrition and plant growth. For example, AM fungi can promote abiotic and biotic stress tolerance even when considered parasitic from a nutrient provision perspective. Other than being obligate biotrophs, very little is known about the benefits AM fungi gain from plants. In this review, we utilize both molecular biology and ecological approaches to expand our understanding of the plant–AM fungal interaction across disciplines. 
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  4. Background The post-harvest recovery and sustained productivity of Nothofagus pumilio forests in Tierra del Fuego may be affected by the abundance and composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF). Timber harvesting alters EMF community structure in many managed forests, but the impacts of harvesting can vary with the management strategy. The implementation of variable retention (VR) management can maintain, increase, or decrease the diversity of many species, but the effects of VR on EMF in the forests of southern Patagonia have not been studied, nor has the role of EMF in the regeneration process of these forests. Methods We evaluated the effects of VR management on the EMF community associated with N. pumilio seedlings. We quantified the abundance, composition, and diversity of EMF across aggregate (AR) and dispersed (DR) retention sites within VR managed areas, and compared them to primary forest (PF) unmanaged stands. EMF assemblage and taxonomic identities were determined by ITS-rDNA sequencing of individual root tips sampled from 280 seedlings across three landscape replicates. To better understand seedling performance, we tested the relationships between EMF colonization, EMF taxonomic composition, seedling biomass, and VR treatment. Results The majority of EMF taxa were Basidiomycota belonging to the families Cortinariaceae ( n  = 29), Inocybaceae ( n  = 16), and Thelephoraceae ( n  = 8), which was in agreement with other studies of EMF diversity in Nothofagus forests. EMF richness and colonization was reduced in DR compared to AR and PF. Furthermore, EMF community composition was similar between AR and PF, but differed from the composition in DR. EMF community composition was correlated with seedling biomass and soil moisture. The presence of Peziza depressa was associated with higher seedling biomass and greater soil moisture, while Inocybe fibrillosibrunnea and Cortinarius amoenus were associated with reduced seedling biomass and lower soil moisture. Seedling biomass was more strongly related to retention type than EMF colonization, richness, or composition. Discussion Our results demonstrate reduced EMF attributes and altered composition in VR treatments relative to PF stands, with stronger impacts in DR compared to AR. This suggests that VR has the potential to improve the conservation status of managed stands by supporting native EMF in AR. Our results also demonstrate the complex linkages between retention treatments, fungal community composition, and tree growth at individual and stand scales. 
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