Are drivers of root-associated fungal community structure context specific?

A Khuzaim Alzarhani, Dave R Clark, Graham J C Underwood, Hilary Ford, T E Anne Cotton, Alex J Dumbrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The composition and structure of plant-root-associated fungal communities are determined by local abiotic and biotic conditions. However, the relative influence and identity of relationships to abiotic and biotic factors may differ across environmental and ecological contexts, and fungal functional groups. Thus, understanding which aspects of root-associated fungal community ecology generalise across contexts is the first step towards a more predictive framework. We investigated how the relative importance of biotic and abiotic factors scale across environmental and ecological contexts using high-throughput sequencing (ca. 55 M Illumina metabarcoding sequences) of >260 plant-root-associated fungal communities from six UK salt marshes across two geographic regions (South-East and North-West England) in winter and summer. Levels of root-associated fungal diversity were comparable with forests and temperate grasslands, quadrupling previous estimates of salt-marsh fungal diversity. Whilst abiotic variables were generally most important, a range of site- and spatial scale-specific abiotic and biotic drivers of diversity and community composition were observed. Consequently, predictive models of diversity trained on one site, extrapolated poorly to others. Fungal taxa from the same functional groups responded similarly to the specific drivers of diversity and composition. Thus site, spatial scale and functional group are key factors that, if accounted for, may lead to a more predictive understanding of fungal community ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1330-1344
Number of pages15
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number5
Early online date28 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • biodiversity
  • ecology
  • England
  • forests
  • fungi/classification
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Mycobiome
  • Plant Roots/microbiology
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Species Specificity


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