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Patterns of root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and dark septate endophytes across a mostly-unvegetated, high-elevation landscape


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and dark septate endophytes (DSE) are two fungal groups that colonize plant roots and can benefit plant growth, but little is known about their landscape distributions. We performed sequencing and microscopy on a variety of plants across a high-elevation landscape featuring plant density, snowpack, and nutrient gradients. Percent colonization by both AMF and DSE varied significantly among plant species, and DSE colonized forbs and grasses more than sedges. AMF were more abundant in roots at lower elevation areas with lower snowpack and lower phosphorus and nitrogen content, suggesting increased hyphal recruitment by plants to aid in nutrient uptake. DSE colonization was highest in areas with less snowpack and higher inorganic nitrogen levels, suggesting an important role for these fungi in mineralizing organic nitrogen. Both of these groups of fungi are likely to be important for plant fitness and establishment in areas limited by phosphorus and nitrogen.

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