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  1. Tree planting and natural regeneration contribute to the ongoing effort to restore Earth's forests. Our review addresses how the plant microbiome can enhance the survival of planted and naturally regenerating seedlings and serve in long-term forest carbon capture and the conservation of biodiversity. We focus on fungal leaf endophytes, ubiquitous defensive symbionts that protect against pathogens. We first show that fungal and oomycetous pathogen richness varies greatly for tree species native to the United States ( n = 0–876 known pathogens per US tree species), with nearly half of tree species either without pathogens in these major groups or with unknown pathogens. Endophytes are insurance against the poorly known and changing threat of tree pathogens. Next, we review studies of plant phyllosphere feedback, but knowledge gaps prevent us from evaluating whether adding conspecific leaf litter to planted seedlings promotes defensive symbiosis, analogous to adding soil to promote positive feedback. Finally, we discuss research priorities for integrating the plant microbiome into efforts to expand Earth's forests. 
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  2. Abstract

    One mechanism proposed to explain high species diversity in tropical systems is strong negative conspecific density dependence (CDD), which reduces recruitment of juveniles in proximity to conspecific adult plants. Although evidence shows that plant-specific soil pathogens can drive negative CDD, trees also form key mutualisms with mycorrhizal fungi, which may counteract these effects. Across 43 large-scale forest plots worldwide, we tested whether ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibit weaker negative CDD than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. We further tested for conmycorrhizal density dependence (CMDD) to test for benefit from shared mutualists. We found that the strength of CDD varies systematically with mycorrhizal type, with ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibiting higher sapling densities with increasing adult densities than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. Moreover, we found evidence of positive CMDD for tree species of both mycorrhizal types. Collectively, these findings indicate that mycorrhizal interactions likely play a foundational role in global forest diversity patterns and structure.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Mycorrhizal fungi are critical members of the plant microbiome, forming a symbiosis with the roots of most plants on Earth. Most plant species partner with either arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal fungi, and these symbioses are thought to represent plant adaptations to fast and slow soil nutrient cycling rates. This generates a second hypothesis, that arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal plant species traits complement and reinforce these fungal strategies, resulting in nutrient acquisitive vs. conservative plant trait profiles. Here we analyzed 17,764 species level trait observations from 2,940 woody plant species to show that mycorrhizal plants differ systematically in nitrogen and phosphorus economic traits. Differences were clearest in temperate latitudes, where ectomycorrhizal plant species are more nitrogen use- and phosphorus use-conservative than arbuscular mycorrhizal species. This difference is reflected in both aboveground and belowground plant traits and is robust to controlling for evolutionary history, nitrogen fixation ability, deciduousness, latitude, and species climate niche. Furthermore, mycorrhizal effects are large and frequently similar to or greater in magnitude than the influence of plant nitrogen fixation ability or deciduous vs. evergreen leaf habit. Ectomycorrhizal plants are also more nitrogen conservative than arbuscular plants in boreal and tropical ecosystems, although differences in phosphorus use are less apparent outside temperate latitudes. Our findings bolster current theories of ecosystems rooted in mycorrhizal ecology and support the hypothesis that plant mycorrhizal association is linked to the evolution of plant nutrient economic strategies. 
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  5. Abstract

    Large-scale environmental sequencing efforts have transformed our understanding of the spatial controls over soil microbial community composition and turnover. Yet, our knowledge of temporal controls is comparatively limited. This is a major uncertainty in microbial ecology, as there is increasing evidence that microbial community composition is important for predicting microbial community function in the future. Here, we use continental- and global-scale soil fungal community surveys, focused within northern temperate latitudes, to estimate the relative contribution of time and space to soil fungal community turnover. We detected large intra-annual temporal differences in soil fungal community similarity, where fungal communities differed most among seasons, equivalent to the community turnover observed over thousands of kilometers in space. inter-annual community turnover was comparatively smaller than intra-annual turnover. Certain environmental covariates, particularly climate covariates, explained some spatial–temporal effects, though it is unlikely the same mechanisms drive spatial vs. temporal turnover. However, these commonly measured environmental covariates could not fully explain relationships between space, time and community composition. These baseline estimates of fungal community turnover in time provide a starting point to estimate the potential duration of legacies in microbial community composition and function.

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  6. null (Ed.)