• 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
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
Issue number2
Early online date22 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • international

ID: 6132143