Forest microsite effects on community composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi on seedlings of Picea abies and Betula pendula


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Niche differentiation in soil horizons, host species and natural nutrient gradients contribute to the high diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi in boreal forests. This study aims at documenting the diversity and community composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi of Norway spruce (Picea abies) and silver birch (Betula pendula) seedlings in five most abundant microsites in three Estonian old-growth forests. Undisturbed forest floor, windthrow mounds and pits harboured more species than brown- and white-rotted wood. Several species of ectomycorrhizal fungi were differentially represented on either hosts, microsites and sites. Generally, the most frequent species in dead wood were also common in forest floor soil. Ordination analyses suggested that decay type determined the composition of EcM fungal community in dead wood. Root connections with in-growing mature tree roots from below affected the occurrence of certain fungal species on seedling roots systems in dead wood. This study demonstrates that ectomycorrhizal fungi differentially establish in certain forest microsites that is attributable to their dispersal and competitive abilities. Elevated microsites, especially decayed wood, act as seed beds for both ectomycorrhizal forest trees and fungi, thus affecting the succession of boreal forest ecosystems.