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Spatial structure and the effects of host and soil environments on communities of ectomycorrhizal fungi in wooded savannas and rain forests of Continental Africa and Madagascar

Authors


Leho Tedersoo, Tel/Fax: +372 7376222; E-mail: leho.tedersoo@ut.ee

Abstract

Mycorrhizal fungi play a key role in mineral nutrition of terrestrial plants, but the factors affecting natural distribution, diversity and community composition of particularly tropical fungi remain poorly understood. This study addresses shifts in community structure and species frequency of ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi in relation to host taxa, soil depth and spatial structure in four contrasting African ecosystems. We used the rDNA and plastid trnL intron sequence analysis for identification of fungi and host plants, respectively. By partitioning out spatial autocorrelation in plant and fungal distribution, we suggest that African EcM fungal communities are little structured by soil horizon and host at the plant species and family levels. These findings contrast with patterns of vegetation in these forests and EcM fungal communities in other tropical and temperate ecosystems. The low level of host preference indirectly supports an earlier hypothesis that pioneer Phyllanthaceae may facilitate the establishment of late successional Fabaceae and potentially other EcM host trees by providing compatible fungal inoculum in deforested and naturally disturbed ecosystems of tropical Africa.

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