Drivers of total and pathogenic soil-borne fungal communities in grassland plant species

Davide Francioli, Jasper van Ruijven, Lisette Bakker, Liesje Mommer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Soil-borne fungi are considered important drivers of plant community structure, diversity and ecosystem process in terrestrial ecosystems. Yet, our understanding of their identity and belowground association with different plant species in natural ecosystems such as grasslands is limited. We identified the soil-borne fungal communities in the roots of a range of plant species representing the main families occurring in natural grasslands using next generation sequencing of the ITS1 region, alongside FUNGuild and a literature review to determine the ecological role of the fungal taxa detected. Our results show clear differences in the total and the pathogenic soil-borne fungal communities between the two main plant functional groups in grasslands (grasses and forbs) and between species within both functional groups, which could to a large extent be explained by plant phylogenetic structure. In addition, our results show that drought can increase the relative abundance of pathogenic fungi. These findings on a range of plant species provide a baseline for future studies revealing the importance of belowground plant-fungal interactions in diverse natural grasslands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100987
JournalFungal Ecology
Early online date13 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Drought
  • Fungal pathogens
  • Host phylogeny
  • Natural grasslands
  • Plant functional group
  • Root traits
  • Root-associated fungi

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