Fire regime, not time-since-fire, affects soil fungal community diversity and composition in temperate grasslands

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Abstract

Frequent burning is commonly undertaken to maintain diversity in temperate grasslands of southern Australia. How burning affects below-ground fungal community diversity remains unknown. We show, using a fungal rDNA metabarcoding approach (Illumina MiSeq), that the fungal community composition was influenced by fire regime (frequency) but not time-since-fire. Fungal community composition was resilient to direct fire effects, most likely because grassland fires transfer little heat to the soil. Differences in the fungal community composition due to fire regime was likely due to associated changes that occur in vegetation with recurrent fire, via the break up of obligate symbiotic relationships. However, fire history only partially explains the observed dissimilarity in composition among the soil samples, suggesting a distinctiveness in composition in each grassland site. The importance of considering changes in soil microbe communities when managing vegetation with fire is highlighted.

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