Fungal communities shift along a tree species diversity gradient in mature European forests

Foliar fungal species are diverse and colonize all plants, though whether forest tree species composition influences the distribution of these fungal communities remains unclear. Fungal communities include quiescent taxa and the functionally important and metabolically active taxa that respond to changes in the environment. To determine fungal community shifts along a tree species diversity gradient, needles of Norway spruce were sampled from trees from four mature European forests. These forests were Râşca, Romania; Hainich, Germany; Białowieża, Poland; and North Karelia, Finland. We hypothesized that the fungal communities and specific fungal taxa would correlate with tree species diversity. Furthermore, the active fungal community (as determined by sequencing the RNA), and not the total community (as determined by sequencing the DNA), would shift along the tree diversity gradient. High-throughput sequencing, using 454 pyrosequencing, showed significant differences in the fungal communities in the different forests, and in one forest [Hainich, Germany], tree diversity effects were observed, though this was not a general phenomenon. Our study also suggests that studying the metabolically active community may not provide additional information about community composition or diversity.

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