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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • soil fauna;
  • fungal community;
  • decomposition;
  • soil biodiversity;
  • ecosystem function

Abstract

Saprotrophic fungal community composition, determined by the outcomes of competitive mycelial interactions, represents a key determinant of woodland carbon and nutrient cycling. Atmospheric warming is predicted to drive changes in fungal community composition. Grazing by invertebrates can also exert selective pressures on fungal communities and alter the outcome of competitive fungal interactions; their potential to do so is determined by grazing intensity. Temperature regulates the abundance of soil collembola, but it remains unclear whether this will alter the top-down determination of fungal community composition. We use soil microcosms to explore the direct (via effects on interacting fungi) and indirect (by influencing top-down grazing pressures) effects of a 3 °C temperature increase on the outcomes of competitive interactions between cord-forming basidiomycete fungi. By differentially affecting the fungal growth rates, warming reversed the outcomes of specific competitive interactions. Collembola populations also increased at elevated temperature, and these larger, more active, populations exerted stronger grazing pressures. Consequently, grazing mitigated the effects of temperature on these interactions, restoring fungal communities to those recorded at ambient temperature. The interactive effects of biotic and abiotic factors are a key in determining the functional and ecological responses of microbial communities to climate change.