Habitat-scale heterogeneity maintains fungal endophyte diversity in two native prairie legumes

Mara DeMers, Georgiana May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The assembly of fungal endophyte communities within plants depends on the complex interactions of fungal taxa, their host plants, and the abiotic environment. Prairie plant communities provide a unique avenue to explore the interplay of biotic and abiotic factors affecting endophyte communities, since the historical distribution of prairies spans a broad range of temperature and precipitation, while the distances between small fragments of contemporary prairie communities may challenge the dispersal capabilities of these otherwise ubiquitous fungi. We sampled foliar fungal endophytes from two native prairie legumes, purple and white prairie clovers (Dalea purpurea and D. candida), in 17 remnant prairie sites across Minnesota in order to evaluate the relative contributions of abiotic factors, host species, and dispersal limitation to the diversity and structure of these communities. We found that similarity of communities was significantly associated with their location along a temperature and precipitation gradient, and we showed a distance-decay relationship that suggests dispersal limitations only over very large spatial scales. Although the effect of host species was small relative to these other factors, the two Dalea species maintained distinct communities within sites where they co-occur. Our results illustrate the capacity of many of these endophyte taxa to disperse over large distances and across heterogeneous biotic and abiotic environments and suggest that the interplay of biotic and abiotic factors maintains high diversity observed in endophyte communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Alternaria
  • community assembly
  • dispersal limitation
  • species diversity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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