2017 Volume 32 Issue 2 Pages 147-153
Dwarf shrubs of the family Ericaceae are common in arctic and alpine regions. Many of these plants are associated with ericoid mycorrhizal (ERM) fungi, which allow them to take nutrients and water from the soil under harsh environmental conditions and, thus, affect host plant survival. Despite the importance of ERM fungi to alpine plant communities, limited information is available on the effects of microhabitat and host identity on ERM fungal communities. We investigated the communities of putative ERM fungi isolated from five dwarf shrub species (Arcterica nana, Diapensia lapponica, Empetrum nigrum, Loiseleuria procumbens, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea) that co-occur in an alpine region of Japan, with reference to distinct microhabitats provided by large stone pine (Pinus pumila) shrubs (i.e. bare ground, the edge of stone pine shrubs, and the inside of stone pine shrubs). We obtained 703 fungal isolates from 222 individual plants. These isolates were classified into 55 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) based on the sequencing of internal transcribed spacer regions in ribosomal DNA. These putative ERM fungal communities were dominated by Helotiales fungi for all host species. Cistella and Trimmatostroma species, which have rarely been detected in ERM roots in previous studies, were abundant. ERM fungal communities were significantly different among microhabitats (R2=0.28), while the host effect explained less variance in the fungal communities after excluding the microhabitat effect (R2=0.17). Our results suggest that the host effect on ERM fungal communities is minor and the distributions of hosts and fungal communities may be assessed based on microhabitat conditions.