JOURNAL ARTICLE

Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Communities in Urban Parks Are Similar to Those in Natural Forests but Shaped by Vegetation and Park Age

Nan Hui, Xinxin Liu, D Johan Kotze, Ari Jumpponen, Gaia Francini, Heikki Setälä
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2017 December 1, 83 (23)
28970220
Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are important mutualists for the growth and health of most boreal trees. Forest age and its host species composition can impact the composition of ECM fungal communities. Although plentiful empirical data exist for forested environments, the effects of established vegetation and its successional trajectories on ECM fungi in urban greenspaces remain poorly understood. We analyzed ECM fungi in 5 control forests and 41 urban parks of two plant functional groups (conifer and broadleaf trees) and in three age categories (10, ∼50, and >100 years old) in southern Finland. Our results show that although ECM fungal richness was marginally greater in forests than in urban parks, urban parks still hosted rich and diverse ECM fungal communities. ECM fungal community composition differed between the two habitats but was driven by taxon rank order reordering, as key ECM fungal taxa remained largely the same. In parks, the ECM communities differed between conifer and broadleaf trees. The successional trajectories of ECM fungi, as inferred in relation to the time since park construction, differed among the conifers and broadleaf trees: the ECM fungal communities changed over time under the conifers, whereas communities under broadleaf trees provided no evidence for such age-related effects. Our data show that plant-ECM fungus interactions in urban parks, in spite of being constructed environments, are surprisingly similar in richness to those in natural forests. This suggests that the presence of host trees, rather than soil characteristics or even disturbance regime of the system, determine ECM fungal community structure and diversity. IMPORTANCE In urban environments, soil and trees improve environmental quality and provide essential ecosystem services. ECM fungi enhance plant growth and performance, increasing plant nutrient acquisition and protecting plants against toxic compounds. Recent evidence indicates that soil-inhabiting fungal communities, including ECM and saprotrophic fungi, in urban parks are affected by plant functional type and park age. However, ECM fungal diversity and its responses to urban stress, plant functional type, or park age remain unknown. The significance of our study is in identifying, in greater detail, the responses of ECM fungi in the rhizospheres of conifer and broadleaf trees in urban parks. This will greatly enhance our knowledge of ECM fungal communities under urban stresses, and the findings can be utilized by urban planners to improve urban ecosystem services.

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