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Identities and distributions of the co-invading ectomycorrhizal fungal symbionts of exotic pines in the Hawaiian Islands


Pine species have become invasive throughout the globe and threaten to replace native biota. The threat of pine invasion is particularly pressing in parts of the tropics where there are no native pines. The factors that govern pine invasion are not often well understood. However, key to pine survival is an obligate and mutualistic interaction with ectomycorrhizal fungi. Thus for pines to successfully invade new habitats compatible ectomycorrhizal fungi must already be present, or be co-introduced. The purpose of this study was to examine the community structure of non-native ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with pine invasions in the Hawaiian Islands. To accomplish this we executed a field and greenhouse study and used a molecular ecology approach to identify the fungi associating with invasive pines in Hawai‘i. We show that: (1) ectomycorrhizal fungal species richness in non-native pine plantations is far less than what is found in pine’s native range, (2) there was a significant decrease in average ectomycorrhizal fungal species richness as distance from pine plantations increased and, (3) Suillus species were the dominant fungi colonizing pines outside plantations. The keystone ectomycorrhizal fungal taxa responsible for pine establishment in Hawai‘i are within genera commonly associated with pine invasions throughout the globe. We surmise that these fungi share functional traits such as the ability for long-distance dispersal from plantations and host tree colonization via spore that lead to their success when introduced to new habitats.

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