Multiscale assemblage of an ectomycorrhizal fungal community: the influence of host functional traits and soil properties in a 10-ha miombo forest

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Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) are highly diversified and dominant in a number of forest ecosystems. Nevertheless, their scales of spatial distribution and the underlying ecological processes remain poorly understood. Although most EMF are considered to be generalists regarding host identity, a preference toward functional strategies of host trees has never been tested. Here, the EMF community was characterised by DNA sequencing in a 10-ha tropical dry season forest—referred to as miombo—an understudied ecosystem from a mycorrhizal perspective. We used 36 soil parameters and 21 host functional traits (FTs) as candidate explanatory variables in spatial constrained ordinations for explaining the EMF community assemblage. Results highlighted that the community variability was explained by host FTs related to the ‘leaf economics spectrum’ (adjusted R2 = 11%; SLA, leaf area, foliar Mg content), and by soil parameters (adjusted R2 = 17%), notably total forms of micronutrients or correlated available elements (Al, N, K, P). Both FTs and soil generated patterns in the community at scales ranging from 75 to 375 m. Our results indicate that soil is more important than previously thought for EMF in miombo woodlands, and show that FTs of host species can be better predictors of symbiont distribution than taxonomical identity.

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