Distinct seasonal assemblages of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi revealed by massively parallel pyrosequencing


Author for correspondence:
Alex J. Dumbrell
Tel: +44 01206 873370
Email: adumbrell@essex.ac.uk


  • Understanding the dynamics of rhizosphere microbial communities is essential for predicting future ecosystem function, yet most research focuses on either spatial or temporal processes, ignoring combined spatio-temporal effects.
  • Using pyrosequencing, we examined the spatio-temporal dynamics of a functionally important community of rhizosphere microbes, the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. We sampled AM fungi from plant roots growing in a temperate grassland in a spatially explicit manner throughout a year.
  • Ordination analysis of the AM fungal assemblages revealed significant temporal changes in composition and structure. Alpha and beta diversity tended to be negatively correlated with the climate variables temperature and sunshine hours. Higher alpha diversity during colder periods probably reflects more even competitive interactions among AM fungal species under limited carbon availability, a conclusion supported by analysis of beta diversity which highlights how resource limitation may change localized spatial dynamics.
  • Results reveal distinct AM fungal assemblages in winter and summer at this grassland site. A seasonally changing supply of host-plant carbon, reflecting changes in temperature and sunshine hours, may be the driving force in regulating the temporal dynamics of AM fungal communities. Climate change effects on seasonal temperatures may therefore substantially alter future AM fungal community dynamics and ecosystem functioning.