Research ArticleECOLOGY

Shifts in dominant tree mycorrhizal associations in response to anthropogenic impacts

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Science Advances  10 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaav6358
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav6358


Plant-fungal symbioses play critical roles in vegetation dynamics and nutrient cycling, modulating the impacts of global changes on ecosystem functioning. Here, we used forest inventory data consisting of more than 3 million trees to develop a spatially resolved “mycorrhizal tree map” of the contiguous United States. We show that abundances of the two dominant mycorrhizal tree groups—arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal trees—are associated primarily with climate. Further, we show that anthropogenic influences, primarily nitrogen (N) deposition and fire suppression, in concert with climate change, have increased AM tree dominance during the past three decades in the eastern United States. Given that most AM-dominated forests in this region are underlain by soils with high N availability, our results suggest that the increasing abundance of AM trees has the potential to induce nutrient acceleration, with critical consequences for forest productivity, ecosystem carbon and nutrient retention, and feedbacks to climate change.

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