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Beech roots are simultaneously colonized by multiple genets of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria amethystina clustered in two genetic groups


Sara Hortal, Fax: +34950277100; E-mail:


In this study, we characterize and compare the genetic structure of aboveground and belowground populations of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria amethystina in an unmanaged mixed beech forest. Fruiting bodies and mycorrhizas of L. amethystina were mapped and collected in four plots in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains (Poland). A total of 563 fruiting bodies and 394 mycorrhizas were successfully genotyped using the rDNA IGS1 (intergenic spacer) and seven simple sequence repeat markers. We identified two different genetic clusters of L. amethystina in all of the plots, suggesting that a process of sympatric isolation may be occurring at a local scale. The proportion of individuals belonging to each cluster was similar among plots aboveground while it significantly differed belowground. Predominance of a given cluster could be explained by distinct host preferences or by priority effects and competition among genets. Both aboveground and belowground populations consisted of many intermingling small genets. Consequently, host trees were simultaneously colonized by many L. amethystina genets that may show different ecophysiological abilities. Our data showed that several genets may last for at least 1 year belowground and sustain into the next season. Ectomycorrhizal species reproducing by means of spores can form highly diverse and persistent belowground genets that may provide the host tree with higher resilience in a changing environment and enhance ecosystem performance.