Ectomycorrhizal fungus-associated determinants jointly reflect ecological processes in a temperature broad-leaved mixed forest

Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are closely related to vegetation compositions, edaphic properties, and site-specific processes. However, the coevolutionary mechanisms underlying the spatial distributions in floristic and ECM fungal composition in the context of biotic adaptations and abiotic variances remain unclear. We combine a total of 25 ECM fungus-associated environmental variables to impose three types of composite scores and then quantify the environmental gradients of geographical site, soil chemical property and vegetation functional trait across 122 grids of 20 m × 20 m in a 25-hm2 forest plot. Significant dissimilarities in vegetational and ECM fungal abundance and composition existed along the above environmental gradients. Specifically, a contrasting floristic distribution (e.g., Betula platyphylla vs. Tilia mandshurica) existed between the northeastern and southwestern areas and was closely related to the nutrient and moisture gradients (with high levels in the west and low levels in the east). Furthermore, the ECM fungal communities were more abundant in the nutrient-poor and low-moisture environments than in the nutrient-rich and high-moisture environments, and the mixed-forest in the middle-gradient sites between the northeastern and southwestern areas harbored the highest ECM fungal diversity. These findings suggest that predictable within-site vegetation succession is closely related to ECM-associated determinants and the natural spatial heterogeneity of edaphic properties at a local scale.

Zhen Bai, Zuo-Qiang Yuan, Dong-Mei Wang, Shuai Fang, Ji Ye, Xu-Gao Wang, & Hai-Sheng Yuan
Science of the Total Environment