Large-scale insect outbreak homogenizes the spatial structure of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities

Gregory J. Pec, James F. Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ectomycorrhizal fungi (plant symbionts) are diverse and exist within spatially variable communities that play fundamental roles in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the underlying ecological mechanisms that maintain and regulate the spatial structuring of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities are both complex and remain poorly understood. Here, we use a gradient of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) induced tree mortality across eleven stands in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests of western Canada to investigate: (i) the degree to which spatial structure varies within this fungal group, and (ii) how these patterns may be driven by the relative importance of tree mortality from changes in understory plant diversity, productivity and fine root biomass following tree death. We found that the homogeneity of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community increased with increasing tree death, aboveground understory productivity and diversity. Whereas, the independent effect of fine root biomass, which declined along the same gradient of tree mortality, increased the heterogeneity of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community. Together, our results demonstrate that large-scale biotic disturbance homogenizes the spatial patterns of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere6895
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotic disturbance
  • Community structure
  • Dendroctonus ponderosae
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi
  • Ion torrent
  • Pinus contorta
  • Semivariograms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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