Ericaceous plant-fungus network in a harsh alpine-subalpine environment

Hirokazu Toju, A. S. Tanabe, H. S. Ishii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


In terrestrial ecosystems, plant species and diverse root-associated fungi form complex networks of host-symbiont associations. Recent studies have revealed that structures of those below-ground plant-fungus networks differ between arbuscular mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal symbioses. Nonetheless, we still remain ignorant of how ericaceous plant species, which dominate arctic and alpine tundra, constitute networks with their root-associated fungi. Based on a high-throughput DNA sequencing data set, we characterized the statistical properties of a network involving 16 ericaceous plant species and more than 500 fungal taxa in the alpine-subalpine region of Mt. Tateyama, central Japan. While all the 16 ericaceous species were associated mainly with fungi in the order Helotiales, they varied remarkably in association with fungi in other orders such as Sebacinales, Atheliales, Agaricales, Russulales and Thelephorales. The ericaceous plant-fungus network was characterized by high symbiont/host preferences. Moreover, the network had a characteristic structure called ‘anti-nestedness’, which has been previously reported in ectomycorrhizal plant-fungus networks. The results lead to the hypothesis that ericaceous plants in harsh environments can host unexpectedly diverse root-associated fungal taxa, constituting networks whose structures are similar to those of previously reported ectomycorrhizal networks but not to those of arbuscular mycorrhizal ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3242-3257
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Ericoid mycorrhizae
  • Host specificity
  • Illumina miseq
  • Nestedness
  • Network theory
  • Plant-soil feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Ericaceous plant-fungus network in a harsh alpine-subalpine environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this