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Mycorrhizal dominance reduces local tree species diversity across US forests


Ectomycorrhizas and arbuscular mycorrhizas, the two most widespread plant–fungal symbioses, are thought to differentially influence tree species diversity, with positive plant–soil feedbacks favouring locally abundant ectomycorrhizal tree species and negative feedbacks promoting species coexistence and diversity in arbuscular mycorrhizal forests. While seedling recruitment studies and cross-biome patterns of plant diversity and mycorrhizal dominance support this hypothesis, it remains to be tested at the forest stand level over continental scales. Here, we analyse approximately 82,000 forest plots across the USA to show that both ectomycorrhizal-dominated and arbuscular mycorrhizal-dominated forests show relatively low tree diversity, while forests with a mixture of mycorrhizal strategies support a higher number of tree species. Our findings suggest that mycorrhizal dominance, rather than mycorrhizal type, shapes tree diversity in forests.

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Fig. 1: Tree richness and ECM proportion at the plot scale across the USA.
Fig. 2: Relationships between ECM proportion and tree richness.
Fig. 3: Posterior coefficient estimates for the effects on tree richness (number of species).

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the FIA programme47 at The data for the tree mycorrhizal associations are available from Jo and Fei12 with the identifier

Code availability

The custom code of the analyses is available at Zenodo48 with the identifier


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Funding, including scholarships to A.C., was provided by Discovery Grants to E.L. (nos. RGPIN-2014-06106 and RGPIN-2019-04537) by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a Nouveau Chercheur grant (no. 2016‐NC‐188823) by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec sur la Nature et Technologies (FRQNT). A.C. thanks the following institutions for providing generous scholarships: FRQNT (dossier no. 272522) and Université de Montréal through the Bourse d’Excellence Hydro-Québec.

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Authors and Affiliations



E.L., A.C. and M.V. conceived the ideas and designed the methodology. A.C., E.L. and M.V. analysed the data and interpreted the results. A.C. led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Alexis Carteron.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review information

Nature Ecology & Evolution thanks Marcel van der Heijden and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Relationship between ectomycorrhizal (EcM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) proportions in each plot.

Relationship between ectomycorrhizal (EcM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) proportions in each plot. 95 % of the plots have a cumulative sum of AM and EcM proportions > 0.99 (that is, most plots are located on the diagonal). Other plots (that is, below the diagonal) contain ericoid or non-mycorrhizal trees. The number of plots in the legend is presented on a log scale.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Map of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) proportion per plot.

Map of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) proportion (as the proportion of basal area per plot of tree with DBH > 12.7 cm known to associate with AM fungi).

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Carteron, A., Vellend, M. & Laliberté, E. Mycorrhizal dominance reduces local tree species diversity across US forests. Nat Ecol Evol 6, 370–374 (2022).

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