Environment and host as large-scale controls of ectomycorrhizal fungi
Explaining the large-scale diversity of soil organisms that drive biogeochemical processes—and their responses to environmental change—is critical. However, identifying consistent drivers of belowground diversity and abundance for some soil organisms at large spatial scales remains problematic. Here we investigate a major guild, the ectomycorrhizal fungi, across European forests at a spatial scale and resolution that is—to our knowledge—unprecedented, to explore key biotic and abiotic predictors of ectomycorrhizal diversity and to identify dominant responses and thresholds for change across complex environmental gradients. We show the effect of 38 host, environment, climate and geographical variables on ectomycorrhizal diversity, and define thresholds of community change for key variables. We quantify host specificity and reveal plasticity in functional traits involved in soil foraging across gradients. We conclude that environmental and host factors explain most of the variation in ectomycorrhizal diversity, that the environmental thresholds used as major ecosystem assessment tools need adjustment and that the importance of belowground specificity and plasticity has previously been underappreciated.