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Title: Plant–microbe specificity varies as a function of elevation
Abstract

Specialized associations between interacting species fundamentally determine the diversity and distribution of both partners. How the specialization of guilds of organisms varies along environmental gradients underpins popular theories of biogeography and macroecology, whereas the degree of specialization of a species is typically considered fixed. However, the extent to which environmental context impacts specialization dynamics is seldom examined empirically. In this study, we examine how specialization within a bipartite network consisting of three co-occurring plant species and their foliar fungal endophyte symbionts changes along a 1000-meter elevation gradient where host species were held constant. The gradient, along the slope of Mauna Loa shield volcano, represents almost the entire elevational range of two of the three plants. Network and plant specialization values displayed a parabolic relationship with elevation, and were highest at middle elevations, whereas bipartite associations were least specific at low and high elevations. Shannon’s diversity of fungal endophytes correlated negatively with specificity, and was highest at the ends of the transects. Although plant host was a strong determinant of fungal community composition within sites, fungal species turnover was high among sites. There was no evidence of spatial or elevational patterning in fungal community compositon. Our work demonstrates that specificity can be a plastic trait, which is influenced by the environment and centrality of the host within its natural range.

 
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NSF-PAR ID:
10485660
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The ISME Journal
Volume:
13
Issue:
11
ISSN:
1751-7362
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 2778-2788
Size(s):
p. 2778-2788
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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