Soil fungal networks maintain local dominance of ectomycorrhizal trees

Minxia Liang, David Johnson, David Burslem, Shixiao Yu, Miao Fang, Joe Taylor, Andy F S Taylor, Thorunn Helgason, Xubing Liu* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The mechanisms regulating community composition and local dominance of trees in species-rich forests are poorly resolved, but the importance of interactions with soil microbes is increasingly acknowledged. Here, we show that tree seedlings that interact via root-associated fungal hyphae with soils beneath neighbouring adult trees grow faster and have greater survival than seedlings that are isolated from external fungal mycelia, but these effects are observed for species possessing ectomycorrhizas (ECM) and not arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Moreover, survival of naturally-regenerating AM seedlings over ten years is negatively related to the density of surrounding conspecific plants, while survival of ECM tree seedlings displays positive density dependence over this interval, and AM seedling roots contain greater abundance of pathogenic fungi than roots of ECM seedlings. Our findings show that neighbourhood interactions mediated by beneficial and pathogenic soil fungi regulate plant demography and community structure in hyperdiverse forests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2636
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Early online date26 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Weinan Ye, Dr Yinghua Luo, Dr Zongbo Peng, Jie Li, Dr Meng Xu, Fengmin Huang, Wenbin Li, Yongning Li, and also Dr Buhang Li and his field technician team for help with field data collection. We thank Yanwen Chen, Huidan Teng, and Dr Shan Luo for assistance in the field experiments. We acknowledge Dr. Fang Li for kindly providing the featured images of ECM fungi. This research was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Project No. 2017YFA0605100) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31770466 to X.L. and 31870403 to M.L.), and partly supported by awards from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC NE/M004848/1 and NE/R004986/1). D.J. is also supported by the N8 AgriFood programme.

Shade-house experimental data are available in the NERC Environmental Information Data Centre at Sequence data have been deposited in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA) under Project ID PRJNA627300. Field census data are available upon reasonable request from the ForestGEO data portal at


  • biodiversity
  • community ecology
  • forest ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil fungal networks maintain local dominance of ectomycorrhizal trees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this