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Outcomes of fungal interactions are determined by soil invertebrate grazers




Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1134–1142


Saprotrophic fungal community composition, determined by the outcome of competitive mycelial interactions, is one of the many key factors affecting soil nutrient mineralisation and decomposition rates. Fungal communities are not generally predicted to be regulated by top-down factors, such as predation, but rather by bottom-up factors, including resource availability. We show that invertebrate grazers can exert selective pressures on fungal decomposer communities in soil, reversing the outcomes of competitive interactions. By feeding selectively on the cord-forming fungus Resinicium bicolor, isopods prevented the competitive exclusion of Hypholoma fasciculare and Phanerochaete velutina in soil and wood. Nematode populations also reversed the outcomes of competitive interactions by stimulating growth of less competitive fungi. These represent two opposing mechanisms by which soil fauna may influence fungal community composition and diversity. Factors affecting soil invertebrate communities will have direct consequences for fungal-mediated nutrient cycling in woodland soils.