Belowground responses to elevation in a changing cloud forest.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2025
Few studies have investigated how soil fungal communities respond to elevation, especially within TMCF (tropical montane cloud forests). We used an elevation gradient in a TMCF in Costa Rica to determine how soil properties, processes, and community composition of fungi change in response to elevation and across seasons. As elevation increased, soil temperature and soil pH decreased, while soil moisture and soil C:N ratios increased with elevation. Responses of these properties varied seasonally. Fungal abundance increased with elevation during wet and dry seasons. Fungal community composition shifted in response to elevation, and to a lesser extent by season. These shifts were accompanied by varying responses of important fungal functional groups during the wet season and the relative abundance of certain fungal phyla. We suggest that elevation and the responses of certain fungal functional groups may be structuring fungal communities along this elevation gradient. TMCF are ecosystems that are rapidly changing due to climate change. Our study suggests that these changes may affect how fungal communities are structured.