Unexpectedly high beta-diversity of root-associated fungal communities in the Bolivian Andes

Christopher J. Barnes, Carla Maldonado, Tobias G. Frøslev, Alexandre Antonelli, Nina Rønsted

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23 Scopus citations


Bolivia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet. Between the Andes and the Amazon drainage basin spans the Yungas, a vast forested region shown to be extremely species rich in macro-organisms. However, it remains unclear whether this high diversity is also reflected in microbial diversity. Here we assess the genetic, taxonomic and functional diversity of root-associated fungi surrounding Cinchona calisaya trees, a typical element of the intermediate altitudes of the Bolivian Yungas. We determine the relative effects of edaphic properties, climate, and geography in regulating fungal community assembly. We show that α-diversity for these fungal communities was similar to temperate and arid ecosystems, averaging 90.1 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) per sample, with reads predominantly assigned to the Ascomycota phylum and with a saprotrophic lifestyle. β-diversity was calculated as the distance-decay rate, and in contrast to α-diversity, was exceptionally high with a rate of -0.407. Soil properties (pH and P) principally regulated fungal community assembly in an analogous manner to temperate environments, with pH and phosphorus explaining 7.8 and 7.2% of community variation respectively. Surprisingly, altitude does not influence community formation, and there is limited evidence that climate (precipitation and temperature) play a role. Our results suggest that sampling should be performed over a wide geographical and environmental range in order to capture the full root-associated fungal diversity in subtropical regions. This study sheds further light on the diversity and distribution of the world's "hidden biodiversity".

Original languageEnglish
Article number1377
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Barnes, Maldonado, Frøslev, Antonelli and Rønsted.


  • Beta-diversity
  • Cinchona calisaya
  • Fungal spatial-scaling
  • Root-associated fungi
  • Soil fungi


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