Soil fungal responses to experimental warming and drying in a Mediterranean shrubland
The Science of the Total Environment
Centre for Ecosystem Management
Implications of a drying and warming climate have been investigated for aboveground vegetation across a range of biomes yet below-ground effects on microorganisms have received considerably less attention, especially in Mediterranean Type Ecosystems (MTE) that are predicted to be negatively impacted by climate change. We experimentally reduced rainfall and increased temperature across two contrasting study sites (deep sand dune vs shallow sand swale) to test how projected future climate conditions may impact soil fungal composition, richness and diversity. We also assessed fungal OTU warming responses and putative functions of 100 most abundant OTUs and 120 OTUs that either increased or decreased based on their presence/absence across treatments. We found a significant effect of study site, treatment and canopy species on fungal composition. Soil fungal diversity increased under warming treatment in swale plots as compared to control plots indicating a positive effect of warming on fungal diversity. In dunes, significantly more OTUs responded to drought than warming treatment. Among the most abundant soil fungal putative functional groups were endophytes, ericoid mycorrhizas, yeasts and ectomycorrhizas consistent with previous studies. Plant pathogens were found to increase across dunes and swales, while ericoid mycorrhizae decreased. In summary, our study revealed that it is critical to understand belowground microbial patterns as a result of climate change treatments for our ability to better predict how ecosystems may respond to global environmental changes in the future.