Greater diversity of soil fungal communities and distinguishable seasonal variation in temperate deciduous forests compared with subtropical evergreen forests of eastern China

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Whether and how seasonality of environmental variables impacts the spatial variability of soil fungal communities remain poorly understood. We assessed soil fungal diversity and community composition of five Chinese zonal forests along a latitudinal gradient spanning 23°N to 42°N in three seasons to address these questions. We found that soil fungal diversity increased linearly or parabolically with latitude. The seasonal variations in fungal diversity were more distinguishable in three temperate deciduous forests than in two subtropical evergreen forests. Soil fungal diversity was mainly correlated with edaphic factors such as pH and nutrient contents. Both latitude and its interactions with season also imposed significant impacts on soil fungal community composition (FCC), but the effects of latitude were stronger than those of season. Vegetational properties such as plant diversity and forest age were the dominant factors affecting FCC in the subtropical evergreen forests while edaphic properties were the dominant ones in the temperate deciduous forests. Our results indicate that latitudinal variation patterns of soil fungal diversity and FCC may differ among seasons. The stronger effect of latitude relative to that of season suggests a more important influence by the spatial than temporal heterogeneity in shaping soil fungal communities across zonal forests.

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