Composition of fungal soil communities varies with plant abundance and geographic origin

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Plant species’ origin mainly discriminates between belowground root-associated fungal communities according to principle coordinate analysis.
Plant species’ origin mainly discriminates between belowground root-associated fungal communities according to principle coordinate analysis.

Interactions of belowground fungal communities with exotic and native plant species may be important drivers of plant community structure in invaded grasslands. However, field surveys linking plant community structure with belowground fungal communities are missing. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Reininger et al. investigated whether abundant and relatively rare native and exotic plants from an old-field site associate with different fungal communities. They also assessed their symbiotic relationships with soil biota. They found that plant abundance and origin determined the fungal community. Fungal richness was higher for abundant native as opposed to relatively rare native plant species. The same was not true for exotics of contrasting abundance. Abundant exotics were the least mycorrhizal whereas rare natives were most susceptible to enemy attack. Their results suggest that unlike exotics, the relative abundance of native plant species at the old field-site was linked to the structure of belowground fungal communities.


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