Journal Article Vertical Structure of Phyllosphere Fungal Communities in a Tropical Forest in Thailand Uncovered by High-Throughput Sequencing

Izuno, Ayako  ,  Kanzaki, Mamoru  ,  Artchawakom, Taksin  ,  Wachrinrat, Chongrak  ,  Isagi, Yuji

11 ( 11 ) 2016-11-18 , Public Library of Science
Phyllosphere fungi harbor a tremendous species diversity and play important ecological roles. However, little is known about their distribution patterns within forest ecosystems. We examined how species diversity and community composition of phyllosphere fungi change along a vertical structure in a tropical forest in Thailand. Fungal communities in 144 leaf samples from 19 vertical layers (1.28–34.4 m above ground) of 73 plant individuals (27 species) were investigated by metabarcoding analysis using Ion Torrent sequencing. In total, 1, 524 fungal operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were detected among 890, 710 reads obtained from the 144 leaf samples. Taxonomically diverse fungi belonging to as many as 24 orders of Ascomycota and 21 orders of Basidiomycota were detected, most of which inhabited limited parts of the lowest layers closest to the forest floor. Species diversity of phyllosphere fungi was the highest in the lowest layers closest to the forest floor, decreased with increasing height, and lowest in the canopy; 742 and 55 fungal OTUs were detected at the lowest and highest layer, respectively. On the layers close to the forest floor, phyllosphere fungal communities were mainly composed of low frequency OTUs and largely differentiated among plant individuals. Conversely, in the canopy, fungal communities consisted of similar OTUs across plant individuals, and as many as 86.1%–92.7% of the OTUs found in the canopy (≥22 m above ground) were also distributed in the lower layers. Overall, our study showed the variability of phyllosphere fungal communities along the vertical gradient of plant vegetation and environmental conditions, suggesting the significance of biotic and abiotic variation for the species diversity of phyllosphere fungi.

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