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New Phytol. 2015 Mar;205(4):1565-76. doi: 10.1111/nph.13226. Epub 2014 Dec 31.

Host identity is a dominant driver of mycorrhizal fungal community composition during ecosystem development.

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Landcare Research, Box 69040, Lincoln, 7640, New Zealand; Algoma University, 1520 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, P6A 2G4, ON, Canada; Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (Ce3C), Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016, Lisbon, Portugal.


Little is known about the response of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities to ecosystem development. We use a long-term soil chronosequence that includes ecosystem progression and retrogression to quantify the importance of host plant identity as a factor driving fungal community composition during ecosystem development. We identified arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plant species from 50 individual roots from each of 10 sites spanning 5-120 000 yr of ecosystem age using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), Sanger sequencing and pyrosequencing. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities were highly structured by ecosystem age. There was strong niche differentiation, with different groups of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) being characteristic of early succession, ecosystem progression and ecosystem retrogression. Fungal alpha diversity decreased with ecosystem age, whereas beta diversity was high at early stages and lower in subsequent stages. A total of 39% of the variance in fungal communities was explained by host plant and site age, 29% of which was attributed to host and the interaction between host and site (24% and 5%, respectively). The strong response of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to ecosystem development appears to be largely driven by plant host identity, supporting the concept that plant and fungal communities are tightly coupled rather than independently responding to habitat.


arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal succession; ecosystem progression; ecosystem retrogression; long-term chronosequence; pyrosequencing; soil nutrient gradients; terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP)

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