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The relative importance of ecological drivers of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal distribution varies with taxon phylogenetic resolution (2019)

Roy J., Mazel F., Sosa‐Hernández M., Dueñas J., Hempel S., Zinger L., Rillig M.

New Phytologist, 224 (2), 936-948



The phylogenetic depth at which arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi harbor a coherent ecological niche is unknown, which has consequences for operational taxonomic unit (OTU) delineation from sequence data and the study of their biogeography.

We tested how changes in AM fungi community composition across habitats (beta diversity) vary with OTU phylogenetic resolution. We inferred exact sequence variants (ESVs) to resolve phylotypes at resolutions finer than provided by traditional sequence clustering and analyzed beta diversity profiles up to order-level sequence clusters.

At the ESV level, we detected the environmental predictors revealed with traditional OTUs or at higher genetic distances. However, the correlation between environmental predictors and community turnover steeply increased at a genetic distance of c. 0.03 substitutions per site. Furthermore, we observed a turnover of either closely or distantly related taxa (respectively at or above 0.03 substitutions per site) along different environmental gradients.

This study suggests that different axes of AM fungal ecological niche are conserved at different phylogenetic depths. Delineating AM fungal phylotypes using DNA sequences should screen different phylogenetic resolutions to better elucidate the factors that shape communities and predict the fate of AM symbioses in a changing environment.

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