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Guerreiro, Marco Alexandre; Brachmann, Andreas; Begerow, Dominik; Persoh, Derek (2018): Transient leaf endophytes are the most active fungi in 1-year-old beech leaf litter. In: Fungal Diversity, Vol. 89, No. 1: pp. 237-251
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Abstract

The ecological significance of fungi occurring asymptomatically inside living plant leaves is poorly understood. Given the broad saprotrophic potential of many endophytic fungi, we hypothesized that they persist in decaying litter for an extended period of time after leaf abscission. Fungal assemblages were assessed by high-throughput sequencing in autumn leaves of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and in the corresponding leaf litter in 388 samples from 22 beech forest plots in three widely distant regions of Germany. A considerable proportion of the leaf-endophytic fungi was also found in 1-year-old litter. Co-occurrence networks revealed that the fungi formed unstructured assemblages inside the living leaves, rather than well-structured communities. Previously endophytic fungi constituted an integral part of the fungal litter community and were by far the most active fungi in 1-year-old litter. We therefore consider these endophytic occurrences to represent transient stages. Composition of the aboveground microbiome appears therefore to be closely connected to the process of litter decomposition. Considering the respective linked fungal habitat will facilitate predicting nutrient and carbon cycling and storage in forest ecosystems as well as elucidating the ecology of leaf microbiomes.