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Functional diversity in resource use by fungi.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Fungi influence nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, as they are major regulators of decomposition and soil respiration. However, little is known about the substrate preferences of individual fungal species outside of laboratory culture studies. If active fungi differ in their substrate preferences in situ, then changes in fungal diversity due to global change may dramatically influence nutrient cycling in ecosystems. To test the responses of individual fungal taxa to specific substrates, we used a nucleotide-analogue procedure in the boreal forest of Alaska (USA). Specifically, we added four organic N compounds commonly found in plant litter (arginine, glutamate, lignocellulose, and tannin-protein) to litterbags filled with decomposed leaf litter (black spruce and aspen) and assessed the responses of active fungal species using qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction), oligonucleotide fingerprinting of rRNA genes, and sequencing. We also compared the sequences from our experiment with a concurrent warming experiment to see if active fungi that targeted more recalcitrant compounds would respond more positively to soil warming. We found that individual fungal taxa responded differently to substrate additions and that active fungal communities were different across litter types (spruce vs. aspen). Active fungi that targeted lignocellulose also responded positively to experimental warming. Additionally, resource-use patterns in different fungal taxa were genetically correlated, suggesting that it may be possible to predict the ecological function of active fungal communities based on genetic information. Together, these results imply that fungi are functionally diverse and that reductions in fungal diversity may have consequences for ecosystem functioning.

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