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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Distinct Biogeography of Different Fungal Guilds and Their Associations With Plant Species Richness in Forest Ecosystems


Plant pathogens are increasingly considered as important agents in promoting plant coexistence, while plant symbionts like ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) can facilitate plant dominance by helping conspecific individuals to defend against plant pathogens. However, we know little about their relationships with plants at large scales. Here, using soil fungal data collected from 28 forest reserves across China, we explored the latitudinal diversity gradients of overall fungi and different fungal functional guilds, including putative plant pathogens, EMF, and saprotrophic fungi. We further linked the spatial patterns of alpha diversities of putative plant pathogens and EMF to the variation of plant species richness. We found that the relationships between latitude and alpha diversities of putative plant pathogens and EMF were region-dependent with sharp diversity shifts around the mid-latitude (~35°N), which differed from the unimodal diversity distributions of the overall and saprotrophic fungi. The variations in the diversities of putative plant pathogens and EMF were largely explained by the spatial regions (south vs. north/subtropical zone vs. temperate zone). Additionally, the alpha diversities of these two fungal guilds exhibited opposing trends across latitude. EMF could alter the relationship between diversities of putative plant pathogens and plants in the south/subtropical region, but not vice versa. We also found that the ratio of their alpha diversities (EMF to putative plant pathogens) was negatively related to plant species richness across the spatial regions (north to south), and explained ~10% of the variation of plant species richness. Overall, our findings suggest that plant-microbe interactions not only shape the local plant diversity but also may have non-negligible contributions to the large-scale patterns of plant diversity in forest ecosystems.

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