High throughput sequencing combined with null model tests reveals specific plant-fungi associations linked to seedling establishment and survival

  • 1. Plant-fungal interactions are important for plant community assembly, but quantifying these relationships remains challenging. High throughput sequencing of fungal communities allows us to identify plant-fungal associations at a high level of resolution, but often fails to provide information on taxonomic and functional assignment of fungi. 2. We transplanted seeds of Pinus cembra across an elevational gradient (1850–2250 m a.s.l.) and identified environmental factors and known fungal associates important for seedling establishment and survival. We then applied null model tests to identify taxonomically unassigned fungi associated with pine recruitment. 3. Early seedling establishment was determined by abiotic environmental factors, while seedling survival was predominantly affected by biotic environmental factors (i.e., the abundance of a fungal pathogen known from literature and the distance to adult trees). Null model tests identified known mycorrhizal partners and a large number of unknown operational taxonomic units (OTUs) associated with seedling survival, including saprotrophic and pathogenic species. These results highlight that unknown fungal OTUs, which are usually discarded from analyses, could play a crucial role for plant survival. 4. Synthesis. We conclude that high throughput metabarcoding paired with null model tests, is a valuable approach for identifying hidden plant-fungal associations within large and complex DNA metabarcoding datasets. Such an approach can be an important tool in illuminating the black box of plant-microbe interactions, and thus understanding ecosystem dynamics.
Author:Dominik MergesORCiDGND, Miklós BálintORCiDGND, Imke SchmittORCiDGND, Peter ManningORCiD, Eike Lena NeuschulzORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Journal of ecology
Place of publication:Oxford [u.a.]
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2019/09/20
Date of first Publication:2019/09/20
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/03/15
Tag:DNA metabarcoding; ITS; elevational gradient; fungal pathogens; mycorrhiza; plant regeneration; transplant experiment
Page Number:12
First Page:574
Last Page:585
This research has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; NE 1863/2-1).
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0