Phylogenetic relationships among host plants explain differences in fungal species richness and community composition in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis



  • Geographic and taxonomic host ranges determine the distribution of biotrophic organisms. Host phylogenetic distance strongly affects the community composition of pathogens and parasites, but little is known about the host phylogeny effect on communities of mutualists, such as plant–pollinator and plant–mycorrhizal fungi systems.
  • By incorporating phylogenetic eigenvectors into univariate and multivariate models, we aimed to determine the relative contribution of host phylogeny and environmental variables to mycorrhizal traits and community composition of ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi in Salicaceae at the local scale.
  • Host phylogeny explained 75% of the variation in fungal species richness and 20% of the variation in community composition. We also re-analyzed a system involving eight hosts from Japan, in which host phylogeny explained 26% and 9% of the variation in fungal richness and community composition, respectively. [Correction added after online publication 21 May 2013: in the preceding sentence the values 9% and 26% have been transposed.]
  • Phylogenetic eigenvectors that differentially account for clades and terminal taxa across the phylogeny revealed stronger host effects than did the treatment of host species as categorical or dummy variables in multiregression models, and in comparison with methods such as Mantel test and its analogs. Our results indicate the usefulness of the eigenvector method for the quantification of the host phylogeny effect, which represents an integrated complex function of taxonomic sampling effect and phylogenetic distance per se.