Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses

GFBI consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The identity of the dominant root-associated microbial symbionts in a forest determines the ability of trees to access limiting nutrients from atmospheric or soil pools 1,2 , sequester carbon 3,4 and withstand the effects of climate change 5,6 . Characterizing the global distribution of these symbioses and identifying the factors that control this distribution are thus integral to understanding the present and future functioning of forest ecosystems. Here we generate a spatially explicit global map of the symbiotic status of forests, using a database of over 1.1 million forest inventory plots that collectively contain over 28,000 tree species. Our analyses indicate that climate variables—in particular, climatically controlled variation in the rate of decomposition—are the primary drivers of the global distribution of major symbioses. We estimate that ectomycorrhizal trees, which represent only 2% of all plant species 7 , constitute approximately 60% of tree stems on Earth. Ectomycorrhizal symbiosis dominates forests in which seasonally cold and dry climates inhibit decomposition, and is the predominant form of symbiosis at high latitudes and elevation. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal trees dominate in aseasonal, warm tropical forests, and occur with ectomycorrhizal trees in temperate biomes in which seasonally warm-and-wet climates enhance decomposition. Continental transitions between forests dominated by ectomycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal trees occur relatively abruptly along climate-driven decomposition gradients; these transitions are probably caused by positive feedback effects between plants and microorganisms. Symbiotic nitrogen fixers—which are insensitive to climatic controls on decomposition (compared with mycorrhizal fungi)—are most abundant in arid biomes with alkaline soils and high maximum temperatures. The climatically driven global symbiosis gradient that we document provides a spatially explicit quantitative understanding of microbial symbioses at the global scale, and demonstrates the critical role of microbial mutualisms in shaping the distribution of plant species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-408
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume569
Issue number7756
DOIs
StatePublished - May 16 2019

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Symbiosis
Climate
Ecosystem
Soil
Plant Dispersal
Cold Climate
Climate Change
Forests
Fungi
Nitrogen
Carbon
Databases
Food
Equipment and Supplies
Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses. / GFBI consortium.

In: Nature, Vol. 569, No. 7756, 16.05.2019, p. 404-408.

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

GFBI consortium. / Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses. In: Nature. 2019 ; Vol. 569, No. 7756. pp. 404-408.
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abstract = "The identity of the dominant root-associated microbial symbionts in a forest determines the ability of trees to access limiting nutrients from atmospheric or soil pools 1,2 , sequester carbon 3,4 and withstand the effects of climate change 5,6 . Characterizing the global distribution of these symbioses and identifying the factors that control this distribution are thus integral to understanding the present and future functioning of forest ecosystems. Here we generate a spatially explicit global map of the symbiotic status of forests, using a database of over 1.1 million forest inventory plots that collectively contain over 28,000 tree species. Our analyses indicate that climate variables—in particular, climatically controlled variation in the rate of decomposition—are the primary drivers of the global distribution of major symbioses. We estimate that ectomycorrhizal trees, which represent only 2{\%} of all plant species 7 , constitute approximately 60{\%} of tree stems on Earth. Ectomycorrhizal symbiosis dominates forests in which seasonally cold and dry climates inhibit decomposition, and is the predominant form of symbiosis at high latitudes and elevation. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal trees dominate in aseasonal, warm tropical forests, and occur with ectomycorrhizal trees in temperate biomes in which seasonally warm-and-wet climates enhance decomposition. Continental transitions between forests dominated by ectomycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal trees occur relatively abruptly along climate-driven decomposition gradients; these transitions are probably caused by positive feedback effects between plants and microorganisms. Symbiotic nitrogen fixers—which are insensitive to climatic controls on decomposition (compared with mycorrhizal fungi)—are most abundant in arid biomes with alkaline soils and high maximum temperatures. The climatically driven global symbiosis gradient that we document provides a spatially explicit quantitative understanding of microbial symbioses at the global scale, and demonstrates the critical role of microbial mutualisms in shaping the distribution of plant species.",
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T1 - Climatic controls of decomposition drive the global biogeography of forest-tree symbioses

AU - GFBI consortium

AU - Steidinger, B. S.

AU - Crowther, T. W.

AU - Liang, J.

AU - Van Nuland, M. E.

AU - Werner, G. D.A.

AU - Reich, P. B.

AU - Nabuurs, G.

AU - de-Miguel, S.

AU - Zhou, M.

AU - Picard, N.

AU - Herault, B.

AU - Zhao, X.

AU - Zhang, C.

AU - Routh, D.

AU - Peay, K. G.

AU - Abegg, Meinrad

AU - Adou Yao, C.  Yves

AU - Alberti, Giorgio

AU - Almeyda Zambrano, Angelica

AU - Alvarez-Davila, Esteban

AU - Alvarez-Loayza, Patricia

AU - Alves, Luciana F.

AU - Ammer, Christian

AU - Antón-Fernández, Clara

AU - Araujo-Murakami, Alejandro

AU - Arroyo, Luzmila

AU - Avitabile, Valerio

AU - Aymard, Gerardo

AU - Baker, Timothy

AU - Bałazy, Radomir

AU - Banki, Olaf

AU - Barroso, Jorcely

AU - Bastian, Meredith

AU - Bastin, Jean Francois

AU - Birigazzi, Luca

AU - Birnbaum, Philippe

AU - Bitariho, Robert

AU - Boeckx, Pascal

AU - Bongers, Frans

AU - Bouriaud, Olivier

AU - Brancalion, Pedro H H.S.

AU - Brandl, Susanne

AU - Brearley, Francis Q.

AU - Brienen, Roel

AU - Broadbent, Eben

AU - Bruelheide, Helge

AU - Bussotti, Filippo

AU - Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto

AU - Cesar, Ricardo

AU - Enquist, Brian

PY - 2019/5/16

Y1 - 2019/5/16

N2 - The identity of the dominant root-associated microbial symbionts in a forest determines the ability of trees to access limiting nutrients from atmospheric or soil pools 1,2 , sequester carbon 3,4 and withstand the effects of climate change 5,6 . Characterizing the global distribution of these symbioses and identifying the factors that control this distribution are thus integral to understanding the present and future functioning of forest ecosystems. Here we generate a spatially explicit global map of the symbiotic status of forests, using a database of over 1.1 million forest inventory plots that collectively contain over 28,000 tree species. Our analyses indicate that climate variables—in particular, climatically controlled variation in the rate of decomposition—are the primary drivers of the global distribution of major symbioses. We estimate that ectomycorrhizal trees, which represent only 2% of all plant species 7 , constitute approximately 60% of tree stems on Earth. Ectomycorrhizal symbiosis dominates forests in which seasonally cold and dry climates inhibit decomposition, and is the predominant form of symbiosis at high latitudes and elevation. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal trees dominate in aseasonal, warm tropical forests, and occur with ectomycorrhizal trees in temperate biomes in which seasonally warm-and-wet climates enhance decomposition. Continental transitions between forests dominated by ectomycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal trees occur relatively abruptly along climate-driven decomposition gradients; these transitions are probably caused by positive feedback effects between plants and microorganisms. Symbiotic nitrogen fixers—which are insensitive to climatic controls on decomposition (compared with mycorrhizal fungi)—are most abundant in arid biomes with alkaline soils and high maximum temperatures. The climatically driven global symbiosis gradient that we document provides a spatially explicit quantitative understanding of microbial symbioses at the global scale, and demonstrates the critical role of microbial mutualisms in shaping the distribution of plant species.

AB - The identity of the dominant root-associated microbial symbionts in a forest determines the ability of trees to access limiting nutrients from atmospheric or soil pools 1,2 , sequester carbon 3,4 and withstand the effects of climate change 5,6 . Characterizing the global distribution of these symbioses and identifying the factors that control this distribution are thus integral to understanding the present and future functioning of forest ecosystems. Here we generate a spatially explicit global map of the symbiotic status of forests, using a database of over 1.1 million forest inventory plots that collectively contain over 28,000 tree species. Our analyses indicate that climate variables—in particular, climatically controlled variation in the rate of decomposition—are the primary drivers of the global distribution of major symbioses. We estimate that ectomycorrhizal trees, which represent only 2% of all plant species 7 , constitute approximately 60% of tree stems on Earth. Ectomycorrhizal symbiosis dominates forests in which seasonally cold and dry climates inhibit decomposition, and is the predominant form of symbiosis at high latitudes and elevation. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal trees dominate in aseasonal, warm tropical forests, and occur with ectomycorrhizal trees in temperate biomes in which seasonally warm-and-wet climates enhance decomposition. Continental transitions between forests dominated by ectomycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal trees occur relatively abruptly along climate-driven decomposition gradients; these transitions are probably caused by positive feedback effects between plants and microorganisms. Symbiotic nitrogen fixers—which are insensitive to climatic controls on decomposition (compared with mycorrhizal fungi)—are most abundant in arid biomes with alkaline soils and high maximum temperatures. The climatically driven global symbiosis gradient that we document provides a spatially explicit quantitative understanding of microbial symbioses at the global scale, and demonstrates the critical role of microbial mutualisms in shaping the distribution of plant species.

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