Indexed on: 25 Nov '16Published on: 25 Nov '16Published in: Scientific Reports
Orchid species are critically dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for completion of their life cycle, particularly during the early stages of their development when nutritional resources are scarce. As such, orchid mycorrhizal fungi play an important role in the population dynamics, abundance, and spatial distribution of orchid species. However, less is known about the ecology and distribution of orchid mycorrhizal fungi. In this study, we used 454 amplicon pyrosequencing to investigate ecological and geographic variation in mycorrhizal associations in fourteen species of the orchid genus Dactylorhiza. More specifically, we tested the hypothesis that variation in orchid mycorrhizal communities resulted primarily from differences in habitat conditions where the species were growing. The results showed that all investigated Dactylorhiza species associated with a large number of fungal OTUs, the majority belonging to the Tulasnellaceae, Ceratobasidiaceae and Sebacinales. Mycorrhizal specificity was low, but significant variation in mycorrhizal community composition was observed between species inhabiting different ecological habitats. Although several fungi had a broad geographic distribution, Species Indicator Analysis revealed some fungi that were characteristic for specific habitats. Overall, these results indicate that orchid mycorrhizal fungi may have a broad geographic distribution, but that their occurrence is bounded by specific habitat conditions.