In epiphytic orchids, distinctive groups of fungi are involved in the symbiotic association. However, little is known about the factors that determine the mycorrhizal community structure. Here, we analyzed the orchid mycorrhizal fungi communities associated with three sympatric Cymbidieae epiphytic tropical orchids (Cyrtochilum flexuosum, Cyrtochilum myanthum, and Maxillaria calantha) at two sites located within the mountain rainforest of southern Ecuador. To characterize these communities at each orchid population, the ITS2 region was analyzed by Illumina MiSeq technology. Fifty-five mycorrhizal fungi operational taxonomic units (OTUs) putatively attributed to members of Serendipitaceae, Ceratobasidiaceae and Tulasnellaceae were identified. Significant differences in mycorrhizal communities were detected between the three sympatric orchid species as well as among sites/populations. Interestingly, some mycorrhizal OTUs overlapped among orchid populations. Our results suggested that populations of studied epiphytic orchids have site-adjusted mycorrhizal communities structured around keystone fungal species. Interaction with multiple mycorrhizal fungi could favor orchid site occurrence and co-existence among several orchid species.
Keywords: Co-existing species; Epiphytic tropical orchids; ITS2; Illumina sequencing; Microbial community assembly; OTU reconstruction.