Soil conditions and microclimate are important determinants of the fine-scale distribution of plant species in the Arctic, creating locally heterogeneous vegetation. We hypothesize that root-associated fungal (RAF) communities respond to the same fine-scale environmental gradients as the aboveground vegetation, creating a coherent pattern between aboveground vegetation and RAF. We explored how RAF communities of the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) plant Bistorta vivipara and aboveground vegetation structure of arctic plants were affected by biotic and abiotic variables at 0.3-3.0-m scales. RAF communities were determined using pyrosequencing. Composition and spatial structure of RAF and aboveground vegetation in relation to collected biotic and abiotic variables were analysed by ordination and semi-variance analyses. The vegetation was spatially structured along soil C and N gradients, whereas RAF lacked significant spatial structure. A weak relationship between RAF community composition and the cover of two ECM plants, B. vivipara and S. polaris, was found, and RAF richness increased with host root length and root weight. Results suggest that the fine-scale spatial structure of RAF communities of B. vivipara and the aboveground vegetation are driven by different factors. At fine spatial scales, neighbouring ECM plants may affect RAF community composition, whereas soil nutrients gradients structure the vegetation.
Keywords: Arctic; Bistorta vivipara; fine spatial scale; high throughput sequencing; root-associated fungi (RAF); semi-variance.
© 2014 The Authors New Phytologist © 2014 New Phytologist Trust.