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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047500. Epub 2012 Oct 18.

Differences in soil fungal communities between European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) dominated forests are related to soil and understory vegetation.

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  • 1UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Soil Ecology, Halle (Saale), Germany.


Fungi are important members of soil microbial communities with a crucial role in biogeochemical processes. Although soil fungi are known to be highly diverse, little is known about factors influencing variations in their diversity and community structure among forests dominated by the same tree species but spread over different regions and under different managements. We analyzed the soil fungal diversity and community composition of managed and unmanaged European beech dominated forests located in three German regions, the Schwäbische Alb in Southwestern, the Hainich-Dün in Central and the Schorfheide Chorin in the Northeastern Germany, using internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rDNA pyrotag sequencing. Multiple sequence quality filtering followed by sequence data normalization revealed 1655 fungal operational taxonomic units. Further analysis based on 722 abundant fungal OTUs revealed the phylum Basidiomycota to be dominant (54%) and its community to comprise 71.4% of ectomycorrhizal taxa. Fungal community structure differed significantly (p≤0.001) among the three regions and was characterized by non-random fungal OTUs co-occurrence. Soil parameters, herbaceous understory vegetation, and litter cover affected fungal community structure. However, within each study region we found no difference in fungal community structure between management types. Our results also showed region specific significant correlation patterns between the dominant ectomycorrhizal fungal genera. This suggests that soil fungal communities are region-specific but nevertheless composed of functionally diverse and complementary taxa.

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