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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 2;7:41801. doi: 10.1038/srep41801.

Foliar fungi of Betula pendula: impact of tree species mixtures and assessment methods.

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Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden.
Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 23053 Alnarp, Sweden.
Institute of Biology/Geobotany and Botanical Garden, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, 06108 Halle, Germany.
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, United Kingdom.


Foliar fungi of silver birch (Betula pendula) in an experimental Finnish forest were investigated across a gradient of tree species richness using molecular high-throughput sequencing and visual macroscopic assessment. We hypothesized that the molecular approach detects more fungal taxa than visual assessment, and that there is a relationship among the most common fungal taxa detected by both techniques. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the fungal community composition, diversity, and distribution patterns are affected by changes in tree diversity. Sequencing revealed greater diversity of fungi on birch leaves than the visual assessment method. One species showed a linear relationship between the methods. Species-specific variation in fungal community composition could be partially explained by tree diversity, though overall fungal diversity was not affected by tree diversity. Analysis of specific fungal taxa indicated tree diversity effects at the local neighbourhood scale, where the proportion of birch among neighbouring trees varied, but not at the plot scale. In conclusion, both methods may be used to determine tree diversity effects on the foliar fungal community. However, high-throughput sequencing provided higher resolution of the fungal community, while the visual macroscopic assessment detected functionally active fungal species.

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