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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Fungi as mediators linking organisms and ecosystems

Bahram, Mohammad; Netherway, Tarquin


The unique set of traits that fungi exhibit, and the versatility of these traits facilitate the mediating role that fungi play in host and ecosystem functioning through the establishment of dynamic evolutionary and ecological interactions.Fungi form a major and diverse component of most ecosystems on Earth. They are both micro and macroorganisms with high and varying functional diversity as well as great variation in dispersal modes. With our growing knowledge of microbial biogeography, it has become increasingly clear that fungal assembly patterns and processes differ from other microorganisms such as bacteria, but also from macroorganisms such as plants. The success of fungi as organisms and their influence on the environment lies in their ability to span multiple dimensions of time, space, and biological interactions, that is not rivalled by other organism groups. There is also growing evidence that fungi mediate links between different organisms and ecosystems, with the potential to affect the macroecology and evolution of those organisms. This suggests that fungal interactions are an ecological driving force, interconnecting different levels of biological and ecological organisation of their hosts, competitors, and antagonists with the environment and ecosystem functioning. Here we review these emerging lines of evidence by focusing on the dynamics of fungal interactions with other organism groups across various ecosystems. We conclude that the mediating role of fungi through their complex and dynamic ecological interactions underlie their importance and ubiquity across Earth's ecosystems.


biotic interactions; fungal biogeography; symbiosis; mycovirus; mycobiota; omics

Published in

FEMS Microbiology Reviews
2021, volume: 46, number: 2, article number: fuab058

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
University of Tartu
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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