Soil fungi are a highly diverse group of microorganisms that provide many ecosystem services. The mechanisms of soil fungal community assembly must therefore be understood to reliably predict how global changes such as climate warming and biodiversity loss will affect ecosystem functioning. To this end, we assessed fungal communities in experimental subtropical forests by pyrosequencing of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region, and constructed tree-fungal bipartite networks based on the co-occurrence of fungal operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and tree species. The characteristics of the networks and the observed degree of fungal specialization were then analyzed in relation to the level of tree species diversity. Unexpectedly, plots containing two tree species had higher network connectance
and fungal generality
values than those with higher tree diversity. Most of the frequent fungal OTUs were saprotrophs. The degree of fungal specialization was highest in tree monocultures. Ectomycorrhizal fungi had higher specialization coefficients than saprotrophic, arbuscular mycorrhizal, and plant pathogenic fungi. High tree species diversity plots with 4 to 16 different tree species sustained the greatest number of fungal species, which is assumed to be beneficial for ecosystem services because it leads to more effective resource exploitation and greater resilience due to functional redundancy.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited