Amplicon Sequencing-Based Bipartite Network Analysis Confirms a High Degree of Specialization and Modularity for Fungi and Prokaryotes in Deadwood
Fungi and prokaryotes are dominant colonizers of wood and mediate its decomposition. Much progress has been achieved to unravel these communities and link them to specific wood properties. However, comparative studies considering both groups of organisms and assessing their relationships to wood resources are largely missing. Bipartite interaction networks provide an opportunity to investigate this colonizer-resource relationship more in detail and aim to directly compare results between different biotic groups. The main questions were as follows. Are network structures reflecting the trophic relationship between fungal and prokaryotic colonizers and their resources? If so, do they reflect the critical role of these groups, especially that of fungi, during decomposition? We used amplicon sequencing data to analyze fungal and prokaryotic interaction networks from deadwood of 13 temperate tree species at an early to middle stage of decomposition. Several diversity- and specialization-related indices were determined and the observed network structures were related to intrinsic wood traits. We hypothesized nonrandom bipartite networks for both groups and a higher degree of specialization for fungi, as they are the key players in wood decomposition. The results reveal highly modular and specialized interaction networks for both groups of organisms, demonstrating that many fungi and prokaryotes are resource-specific colonizers. However, as the level of specialization of fungi significantly surpassed that of prokaryotes, our findings reflect the strong association between fungi and their host. Our novel approach shows that the application of bipartite interaction networks is a useful tool to explore, quantify, and compare the deadwood-colonizers relationship based on sequencing data.