A strong species–area relationship for eukaryotic soil microbes: island size matters for ectomycorrhizal fungi

Authors

  • Kabir G. Peay,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
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  • Thomas D. Bruns,

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
    2. Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
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  • Peter G. Kennedy,

    1. Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
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  • Sarah E. Bergemann,

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
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  • Matteo Garbelotto

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
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* E-mail: kpeay@nature.berkeley.edu

Abstract

While the effects of habitat size and isolation have been successfully studied for macro-organisms, there is currently debate about their relative importance in explaining patterns of microbial species richness. In this study, we examine the species richness of a dominant group of eukaryotic soil microbes, ectomycorrhizal fungi, on ‘tree islands’ of constant age and host composition that range in size from < 10 to > 10 000 m2. Our results show that ectomycorrhizal species richness is significantly reduced on smaller and more isolated tree islands, and the species–area slope that we observe (0.20–0.23) is similar to average slopes reported for macro-organisms. Additionally, species’ occurrence patterns across tree islands and investment trends in fungal fruit bodies suggest that a trade-off between competition and dispersal could play an important role in structuring ectomycorrhizal assemblages.

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