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Plant–fungus mutualism affects spider composition in successional fields




Mutualistic symbionts are widespread in plants and may have strong, bottom-up influences on community structure. Here we show that a grass–endophyte mutualism shifts the composition of a generalist predator assemblage. In replicated, successional fields we manipulated endophyte infection by Neotyphodium coenophialum in a dominant, non-native plant (Lolium arundinaceum). We compared the magnitude of the endophyte effect with manipulations of thatch biomass, a habitat feature of known importance to spiders. The richness of both spider families and morphospecies was greater in the absence of the endophyte, although total spider abundance was not affected. Thatch removal reduced both spider abundance and richness, and endophyte and thatch effects were largely additive. Spider families differed in responses, with declines in Linyphiidae and Thomisidae due to the endophyte and declines in Lycosidae due to thatch removal. Results demonstrate that the community impacts of non-native plants can depend on plants’ mutualistic associates, such as fungal endophytes.