Bryophytes are a dominant vegetation component of the boreal forest, but little is known about their associated fungal communities, including seasonal variation within them. Seasonal variation in the fungal biomass and composition of fungal communities associated with three widespread boreal bryophytes was investigated using HPLC assays of ergosterol and amplicon pyrosequencing of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region of rDNA. The bryophyte phyllosphere community was dominated by Ascomycota. Fungal biomass did not decline appreciably in winter (P=0.272). Significant host-specific patterns in seasonal variation of biomass were detected (P=0.003). Although seasonal effects were not the primary factors structuring community composition, collection date significantly explained (P=0.001) variation not attributed to locality, host, and tissue. Community homogenization and a reduction in turnover occurred with the onset of frost events and subzero air and soil temperatures. Fluctuations in the relative abundance of particular fungal groups seem to reflect the nature of their association with mosses, although conclusions are drawn with caution because of potential methodological bias. The moss-associated fungal community is dynamic, exhibiting seasonal turnover in composition and relative abundance of different fungal groups, and significant fungal biomass is present year-round, suggesting a winter-active fungal community.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.