Ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity and saprotrophic fungal diversity are linked to different tree community attributes in a field-based tree experiment

Nhu H. Nguyen, Laura J. Williams, John B. Vincent, Artur Stefanski, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Christian Messier, Alain Paquette, Dominique Gravel, Peter B. Reich, Peter G. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Exploring the link between above- and belowground biodiversity has been a major theme of recent ecological research, due in large part to the increasingly well-recognized role that soil microorganisms play in driving plant community processes. In this study, we utilized a field-based tree experiment in Minnesota, USA, to assess the effect of changes in plant species richness and phylogenetic diversity on the richness and composition of both ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal communities. We found that ectomycorrhizal fungal species richness was significantly positively influenced by increasing plant phylogenetic diversity, while saprotrophic fungal species richness was significantly affected by plant leaf nitrogen content, specific root length and standing biomass. The increasing ectomycorrhizal fungal richness associated with increasing plant phylogenetic diversity was driven by the combined presence of ectomycorrhizal fungal specialists in plots with both gymnosperm and angiosperm hosts. Although the species composition of both the ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal communities changed significantly in response to changes in plant species composition, the effect was much greater for ectomycorrhizal fungi. In addition, ectomycorrhizal but not saprotrophic fungal species composition was significantly influenced by both plant phylum (angiosperm, gymnosperm, both) and origin (Europe, America, both). The phylum effect was caused by differences in ectomycorrhizal fungal community composition, while the origin effect was attributable to differences in community heterogeneity. Taken together, this study emphasizes that plant-associated effects on soil fungal communities are largely guild-specific and provides a mechanistic basis for the positive link between plant phylogenetic diversity and ectomycorrhizal fungal richness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4032-4046
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • fungal guild
  • geographic origin
  • host specificity
  • microbial richness
  • plant phylogenetic diversity


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