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PubMed | CNRS Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution Institute, University Pierre and Marie Curie, Lille University of Science and Technology, CNRS Center of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology and French Institute of Pondicherry Pondicherry
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in plant science | Year: 2015

The ectomycorrhizal (ECM) symbiosis connects mutualistic plants and fungal species into bipartite networks. While links between one focal ECM plant and its fungal symbionts have been widely documented, systemic views of ECM networks are lacking, in particular, concerning the ability of fungal species to mediate indirect ecological interactions between ECM plant species (projected-ECM networks). We assembled a large dataset of plant-fungi associations at the species level and at the scale of Corsica using molecular data and unambiguously host-assigned records to: (i) examine the correlation between the number of fungal symbionts of a plant species and the average specialization of these fungal species, (ii) explore the structure of the plant-plant projected network and (iii) compare plant association patterns in regard to their position along the ecological succession. Our analysis reveals no trade-off between specialization of plants and specialization of their partners and a saturation of the plant projected network. Moreover, there is a significantly lower-than-expected sharing of partners between early- and late-successional plant species, with fewer fungal partners for early-successional ones and similar average specialization of symbionts of early- and late-successional plants. Our work paves the way for ecological readings of Mediterranean landscapes that include the astonishing diversity of below-ground interactions.

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