2021 journal article
Widespread co‐occurrence of Sebacinales and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in switchgrass roots and soils has limited dependence on soil carbon or nutrients
PLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET, 3(5), 614–626.
Societal Impact Statement This work addresses a novel group of Sebacinales mycorrhizal fungi being considered for development as inoculants in managed ecosystems because of their potential access to nutrients in soil organic matter. By comparing the diversity, distributions, and abundances of the Sebacinales with the more common arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in switchgrass, a biofuel crop, we demonstrate that current suggestions for a Sebacinales revolution in agriculture should be tempered by their ecology. In particular, Sebacinales are rare compared to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and are only weakly associated with soil carbon, suggesting that ideas about improved soil carbon cycling associated with Sebacinales need to be sufficiently studied across a range of environmental conditions prior to their consideration for broad‐spectrum soil inoculants. Summary Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are widespread and important root symbionts, but recent work suggests that Sebacinales fungi may play an equally important role in both plant success and ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling based on their worldwide occurrence and putative access to organic matter. However, the ecological impacts of Sebacinales will depend on their abundance and distribution relative to AM fungi and environmental soil carbon and nutrient patterns, which remain unexplored. We characterized Glomeromycota and Sebacinales fungi in switchgrass ( Panicum virgatum L.) roots and soils across 14 sites with diverse soil conditions. We examined group richness differences, co‐occurrence patterns, and how the relative abundance of these fungi related to soil carbon, nutrient stoichiometry, and host size. Sebacinales were widespread, but less diverse, common, and abundant than Glomeromycota. Moreover, co‐occurrences were predominantly random, suggesting relatively few interactions between these groups. Sebacinales increased relative to Glomeromycota in soils with more carbon, but explanatory power was limited. Based on our findings, we suggest that Sebacinales are likely complementary to AM fungi in roots. Expectations that Sebacinales have large effects on soil carbon and nutrient cycling may need to be reconsidered, at least based on their limited abundances relative to AM fungi in switchgrass. This is an important consideration as Sebacinales are candidates for use as inoculants in managed ecosystems.