3 years ago

Quantitative losses vs. qualitative stability of ectomycorrhizal community responses to 3 years of experimental summer drought in a beech-spruce forest

Uwe T Nickel, Fabian Weikl, René Kerner, Cynthia Schäfer, Jean C Munch, Christian Kallenbach, Karin Pritsch
Forest ecosystems in central Europe are predicted to face an increasing frequency and severity of summer droughts because of global climate change. European beech and Norway spruce often coexist in these forests with mostly positive effects on their growth. However, their different below-ground responses to drought may lead to differences in ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal community composition and functions which we examined at the individual root and ecosystem levels. We installed retractable roofs over plots in Kranzberg Forest (11°39′42″E, 48°25′12″N; 490 m a.s.l.) to impose repeated summer drought conditions and assigned zones within each plot where trees neighboured the same or different species to study mixed species effects. We found that ECM fungal community composition changed and the numbers of vital mycorrhizae decreased for both tree species over 3 drought years (2014–2016), with the ECM fungal community diversity of beech exhibiting a faster and of spruce a stronger decline. Mixed stands had a positive effect on the ECM fungal community diversity of both tree species after the third drought year. Ectomycorrhizae with long rhizomorphs increased in both species under drought, indicating long-distance water transport. However, there was a progressive decline in the number of vital fine roots during the experiment, resulting in a strong reduction in enzyme activity per unit volume of soil. Hydrolytic enzyme activities of the surviving ectomycorrhizae were stable or stimulated upon drought, but there was a large decline in ECM fungal species with laccase activity, indicating a decreased potential to exploit nutrients bound to phenolic compounds. Thus, the ectomycorrhizae responded to repeated drought by maintaining or increasing their functionality at the individual root level, but were unable to compensate for quantitative losses at the ecosystem level. These findings demonstrate a strong below-ground impact of recurrent drought events in forests. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13957

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