The effect of climate on the community composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the native pinewoods of Scotland
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen
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Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi form obligate symbioses with many forest trees, providing their hosts with nitrogen gained from the soil in exchange for carbon from host photosynthesis. ECM fungi are important for forest health and nutrient cycling, but there is a lack of knowledge about how these fungi will respond to environmental drivers such as climate change. In particular, we do not know how important climate is in determining the distributions and communities of ECM fungi. To address this gap in understanding the impact of climate on the communities of ECM fungi in Scotland was studied using a mixture of observations along natural climate gradients and experimental work. The native pinewoods of Scotland were used as a focus habitat in which to study ECM fungi because of their importance for fungal diversity. Data were collected from existing records of fungi in the national fungal records database, as well as independent surveys of fungi colonising the roots of pine trees using molecular identification. The work conducted found that climatic variation in Scotland at both regional and local scales affected the composition of ECM fungi. In particular, there was a strong impact of rainfall and soil moisture on the distributions of ECM fungi. Comparison of previously collected data and independent surveys showed that molecular identification techniques provided a better method for monitoring fungal distributions. Experimental work showed that genetic variation in the native pines of Scotland could also affect fungal communities, showing both abiotic and biotic factors influence ECM distributions. The work conducted suggests that climate change is likely to affect the distribution of ECM fungal communities in Scotland. In particular, changes in rainfall patterns and increased drought and flooding are predicted to cause shifts in the composition of ECM communities in the native pinewoods.