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Environmental filtering affects soil fungal community composition more than dispersal limitation at regional scales


The relative importance of dispersal limitation versus environmental filtering for community assembly has received much attention for macroorganisms. These processes have only recently been examined in microbial communities. Instead, microbial dispersal has mostly been measured as community composition change over space (i.e., distance decay). Here we directly examined fungal composition in airborne wind currents and soil fungal communities across a 40000km2 regional landscape to determine if dispersal limitation or abiotic factors were structuring soil fungal communities. Over this landscape, neither airborne nor soil fungal communities exhibited compositional differences due to geographic distance. Airborne fungal communities shifted temporally while soil fungal communities were correlated with abiotic parameters. These patterns suggest that environmental filtering may have the largest influence on fungal regional community assembly in soils, especially for aerially dispersed fungal taxa. Furthermore, we found evidence that dispersal of fungal spores differs between fungal taxa and can be both a stochastic and deterministic process. The spatial range of soil fungal taxa was correlated with their average regional abundance across all sites, which may imply stochastic dispersal mechanisms. Nevertheless, spore volume was also negatively correlated with spatial range for some species. Smaller volume spores may be adapted to long-range dispersal, or establishment, suggesting that deterministic fungal traits may also influence fungal distributions. Fungal life-history traits may influence their distributions as well. Hypogeous fungal taxa exhibited high local abundance, but small spatial ranges, while epigeous fungal taxa had lower local abundance, but larger spatial ranges. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to directly sample air dispersal and soil fungal communities simultaneously across a regional landscape. We provide some of the first evidence that soil fungal communities are mostly assembled through environmental filtering and experience little dispersal limitation.

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