Foliar endophytic fungi (FEF) are of particular interest to ecologists owing to their potential capacity to modify the fitness of a host plant. They are ubiquitously associated with photosynthetic land plants. However, several questions relevant to the influence of host‐imposed habitat filtering on its FEF assemblage are still unanswered.
In a recent issue of journal Ecology and Evolution, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) provided evidence that both host species identity and phylogenetic signal played a significant role in the assemblages of FEF in different Ficus (one of the largest woody genera in the tropics) species.
They also showed that some leaf traits (e.g. specific leaf area, leaf N content, leaf pH, toughness, latex alkaloid content, and latex volume per leaf area, etc.) explained a considerable proportion of the variation in FEF assemblages among host species.
The researchers studied FEF assemblages from plants grown in used a fig collection in XTBG, so as to minimize the variation in abiotic environmental conditions and fungal dispersal capacity.
By using next‐generation methods, the researchers sequenced FEF assemblages from 46 Ficus species. The results indicated that closely related host species had clearly differentiated FEF assemblages. Furthermore, host phylogenetic proximity was significantly correlated with the similarity of their FEF assemblages. Host phylogeny was also found to exert a significant impact on shaping FEF assemblages.
“This study provides strong evidence that host identity has an important influence on shaping FEF assemblages and that leaf traits contribute to explaining the effect of host identity”, said Prof. CHEN Jin, principal investigator of the study.
CHEN Jin, Ph.D Principal Investigator
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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