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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

    Plant defense against pathogens includes a range of mechanisms, including, but not limited to, genetic resistance, pathogen‐antagonizing endophytes, and pathogen competitors. The relative importance of each mechanism can be expressed in a hierarchical view of defense. Several recent studies have shown that pathogen antagonism is inconsistently expressed within the plant defense hierarchy. Our hypothesis is that the hierarchy is governed by contingency rules that determine when and where antagonists reduce plant disease severity.

    Here, we investigated whether pathogen competition influences pathogen antagonism usingPopulusas a model system. In three independent field experiments, we asked whether competition for leaf mesophyll cells between aMelampsorarust pathogen and a microscopic, eriophyid mite affects rust pathogen antagonism by fungal leaf endophytes. The rust pathogen has an annual, phenological disadvantage in competition with the mite because the rust pathogen must infect its secondary host in spring before infectingPopulus. We varied mite–rust competition by utilizingPopulusgenotypes characterized by differential genetic resistance to the two organisms. We inoculated plants with endophytes and allowed mites and rust to infect plants naturally.

    Two contingency rules emerged from the three field experiments: (a) Pathogen antagonism by endophytes can be preempted by host genes for resistance that suppress pathogen development, and (b) pathogen antagonism by endophytes can secondarily be preempted by competitive exclusion of the rust by the mite.

    Synthesis: Our results point to aPopulusdefense hierarchy with resistance genes on top, followed by pathogen competition, and finally pathogen antagonism by endophytes. We expect these rules will help to explain the variation in pathogen antagonism that is currently attributed to context dependency.

     
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  3. Abstract Aim

    Foliar fungi – pathogens, endophytes, epiphytes – form taxonomically diverse communities that affect plant health and productivity. The composition of foliar fungal communities is variable at spatial scales both small (e.g. individual plants) and large (e.g. continents), yet few studies have attempted to tease apart spatial from climatic factors influencing these communities. Moreover, few studies have sampled in more than 1 year to gauge interannual variation in community structure.

    Location

    The Pacific Northwest of western North America.

    Taxon

    Foliar fungi associated with the deciduous treePopulus trichocarpa.

    Methods

    In two consecutive years, we used DNA metabarcoding to characterize foliar fungal communities ofPopulus trichocarpaacross its geographic range, which encompasses a sharp climatic transition as it crosses the Cascade Mountain Range. We used multivariate analyses to (a) test for and differentiate spatial and environmental factors affecting community composition and (b) test for temporal variation in community composition across spatial and environmental gradients.

    Results

    In both study years, we found that foliar fungal community composition varied among sites and between regions (east vs. west of the Cascades). We found that climate explained more variation in community composition than geographic distance, although the majority of variation explained by each was shared. We also found that interannual variation in community composition depended on environmental context: communities located in the dry, eastern portion of the tree's geographic range varied more between study years than those located in the wet, western portion of the tree's range.

    Main conclusions

    Our results suggest that the environment plays a greater role in structuring foliar fungal communities than dispersal limitation.

     
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