Extreme rainfall affects assembly of the root-associated fungal community

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Global warming is resulting in increased frequency of weather extremes. Root-associated fungi play important roles in terrestrial biogeochemical cycling processes, but the way in which they are affected by extreme weather is unclear. Here, we performed long-term field monitoring of the root-associated fungus community of a short rotation coppice willow plantation, and compared community dynamics before and after a once in 100 yr rainfall event that occurred in the UK in 2012. Monitoring of the root-associated fungi was performed over a 3-yr period by metabarcoding the fungal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region. Repeated soil testing and continuous climatic monitoring supplemented community data, and the relative effects of environmental and temporal variation were determined on the root-associated fungal community. Soil saturation and surface water were recorded throughout the early growing season of 2012, following extreme rainfall. This was associated with a crash in the richness and relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal fungi, with each declining by over 50%. Richness and relative abundance of saprophytes and pathogens increased. We conclude that extreme rainfall events may be important yet overlooked determinants of root-associated fungal community assembly. Given the integral role of ectomycorrhizal fungi in biogeochemical cycles, these events may have considerable impacts upon the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1172-1184
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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