Altitudinal gradients fail to predict fungal symbiont responses to warming

Melanie R. Kazenel, Stephanie N. Kivlin, D. Lee Taylor, Joshua S. Lynn, Jennifer A. Rudgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change is shifting altitudinal species ranges, with potential to disrupt species interactions. Altitudinal gradient studies and warming experiments can both increase understanding of climate effects on species interactions, but few studies have used both together to improve predictions. We examined whether plant–fungal symbioses responded similarly to altitude and 23 yr of experimental warming. Root- and leaf-associated fungi, which can mediate plants’ climate sensitivity, responded divergently to elevation vs. warming. Fungal colonization, diversity, and composition varied with altitude, but climate variables were generally weak predictors; other factors such as host plant identity, plant community composition, or edaphic variables likely drive fungal altitudinal distributions. Manipulated warming altered fungal colonization, but not composition or diversity. Leaf symbionts were more sensitive to climate and experimental warming than root symbionts. Altitudinal patterns and responses to warming differed among host plant species and fungal groups, indicating that predicting climate effects on symbioses will require tracking both host and symbiont identities. Combining experimental and observational methods can yield valuable insight into how climate change may alter plant–symbiont interactions, but our results indicate that altitude does not always serve as an adequate proxy for warming effects on fungal symbionts of plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02740
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • climate change
  • community composition
  • diversity
  • elevation gradient
  • endophytes
  • mycorrhizal fungi
  • next-generation sequencing
  • plant–fungal interactions
  • symbiosis
  • warming experiment


Dive into the research topics of 'Altitudinal gradients fail to predict fungal symbiont responses to warming'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this