Lost in diversity: the interactions between soil-borne fungi, biodiversity and plant productivity

Liesje Mommer (Corresponding author), Theresa Cotton, J.M. Raaijmakers, Aad J Termorshuizen, Jasper van Ruijven, Marloes Hendriks, S.Q. van Rijssel, Judith E. van de Mortel, Jan Willem van der Paauw, Elio G.W.M. Schijlen, Annemiek E. Smit-Tiekstra, Frank Berendse, Hans de Kroon, Alex J. Dumbrell

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Abstract

There is consensus that plant species richness enhances plant productivity within natural grasslands, but the underlying drivers remain debated. Recently, differential accumulation of soil-borne fungal pathogens across the plant diversity gradient has been proposed as a cause of this pattern. However, the below-ground environment has generally been treated as a ‘black box’ in biodiversity experiments, leaving these fungi unidentified.
Using next generation sequencing and pathogenicity assays, we analysed the community composition of root-associated fungi from a biodiversity experiment to examine if evidence exists for host specificity and negative density dependence in the interplay between soil-borne fungi, plant diversity and productivity.
Plant species were colonised by distinct (pathogenic) fungal communities and isolated fungal species showed negative, species-specific effects on plant growth. Moreover, 57% of the pathogenic fungal operational taxonomic units (OTUs) recorded in plant monocultures were not detected in eight plant species plots, suggesting a loss of pathogenic OTUs with plant diversity.
Our work provides strong evidence for host specificity and negative density-dependent effects of root-associated fungi on plant species in grasslands. Our work substantiates the hypothesis that fungal root pathogens are an important driver of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-553
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume218
Issue number2
Early online date22 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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Keywords

  • international

Cite this

Mommer, L., Cotton, T., Raaijmakers, J. M., Termorshuizen, A. J., van Ruijven, J., Hendriks, M., van Rijssel, S. Q., van de Mortel, J. E., van der Paauw, J. W., Schijlen, E. G. W. M., Smit-Tiekstra, A. E., Berendse, F., de Kroon, H., & Dumbrell, A. J. (2018). Lost in diversity: the interactions between soil-borne fungi, biodiversity and plant productivity. New Phytologist, 218(2), 542-553. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15036