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Divergent biotic and abiotic filtering of root endosphere and rhizosphere soil fungal communities along ecological gradients

June 20, 2020

Plant roots assemble two distinct microbial compartments: the rhizosphere (microbes in soil surrounding roots) and the endosphere (microbes within roots). Our knowledge of fungal community assembly in these compartments is limited, especially in wetlands. We tested the hypothesis that biotic factors would have direct effects on rhizosphere and endosphere assembly, while abiotic factors would have direct and indirect effects. Using a field study, we examined the influences of salinity, water level and biotic factors on baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) fungal communities. We found that endosphere fungi were correlated with host density and canopy cover as opposed to rhizosphere, suggesting that hosts can impose selective filters on fungi colonizing into their roots. Meanwhile, local abiotic conditions strongly influenced both rhizosphere and endosphere diversity in opposite patterns: e.g. highest endosphere diversity (hump-shaped) while lowest rhizosphere diversity (U-shaped) at intermediate salinity levels. These results indicate that the assembly and structure for the root endosphere and rhizosphere within a host can be shaped by different processes. Our results also highlight the importance of assessing how environmental changes affect plant and plant-associated fungal communities in wetland ecosystems where saltwater intrusion and sea level rise are major threats to both plant and fungal communities.