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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Temporal dynamics of soil fungi in a pyrodiverse dry-sclerophyll forest

Bowd, Elle J. J.; Egidi, Eleonora; Lindenmayer, David B. B.; Wardle, David A. A.; Kardol, Paul; Foster, Claire


Fire is a major evolutionary and ecological driver that shapes biodiversity in forests. While above-ground community responses to fire have been well-documented, those below-ground are much less understood. However, below-ground communities, including fungi, play key roles in forests and facilitate the recovery of other organisms after fire. Here, we used internal transcribed spacer (ITS) meta-barcoding data from forests with three different times since fire [short (3 years), medium (13-19 years) and long (>26 years)] to characterize the temporal responses of soil fungal communities across functional groups, ectomycorrhizal exploration strategies and inter-guild associations. Our findings indicate that fire effects on fungal communities are strongest in the short to medium term, with clear distinctions between communities in forests with a short time (3 years) since fire, a medium time (13-19 years) and a long time (>26 years) since fire. Ectomycorrhizal fungi were disproportionately impacted by fire relative to saprotrophs, but the direction of the response varied depending on morphological structures and exploration strategies. For instance, short-distance ectomycorrhizal fungi increased with recent fire, while medium-distance (fringe) ectomycorrhizal fungi decreased. Further, we detected strong, negative inter-guild associations between ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungi but only at medium and long times since fire. Given the functional significance of fungi, the temporal changes in fungal composition, inter-guild associations and functional groups after fire demonstrated in our study may have functional implications that require adaptive management to curtail.


Australia; dry-sclerophyll eucalypt forests; ectomycorrhizal; fire; fungi; time since fire

Published in

Molecular Ecology
2023, Volume: 32, number: 15, pages: 4181-4198
Publisher: WILEY