Forests influence climate and mitigate global change through the storage of carbon in soils. In turn, these complex ecosystems face important challenges, including increases in carbon dioxide, warming, drought and fire, pest outbreaks and nitrogen deposition. The response of forests to these changes is largely mediated by microorganisms, especially fungi and bacteria. The effects of global change differ among boreal, temperate and tropical forests. The future of forests depends mostly on the performance and balance of fungal symbiotic guilds, saprotrophic fungi and bacteria, and fungal plant pathogens. Drought severely weakens forest resilience, as it triggers adverse processes such as pathogen outbreaks and fires that impact the microbial and forest performance for carbon storage and nutrient turnover. Nitrogen deposition also substantially affects forest microbial processes, with a pronounced effect in the temperate zone. Considering plant–microorganism interactions would help predict the future of forests and identify management strategies to increase ecosystem stability and alleviate climate change effects. In this Review, we describe the impact of global change on the forest ecosystem and its microbiome across different climatic zones. We propose potential approaches to control the adverse effects of global change on forest stability, and present future research directions to understand the changes ahead.
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P.K. (grant no. 21-17749S) and R.L.-M. (grant no. 22-30769S) received support from the Czech Science Foundation.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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- Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
(AM). Fungi that form a mycorrhizal symbiosis with a plant host. This is typical for certain trees and most non-woody plants and is characterized by fungal hyphae that penetrate plant cell walls, where they form highly branched structures known as arbuscules. AM belong to a single monopyhyletic lineage of Glomeromycota. They are not able to decompose biopolymers.
Polymeric molecules consisting of organic building blocks, typically forming cell walls of plant biomass (for example, cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin, pectin), bacterial biomass (for example, peptidoglycan) or fungal biomass (for example, chitin).
- Copiotrophic microorganisms
Microorganisms found in environments or microhabitats rich in nutrients, particularly carbon.
- Ectomycorrhizal fungi
Fungi engaged in a mycorrhizal symbiosis that is characterized anatomically by fungal hyphae that wholly enclose the fine roots of the tree host. Ectomycorrhizal fungi include diverse species from the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota phyla. Some ectomycorrhizal fungi are involved in organic matter decomposition.
- Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi
Fungi in a mycorrhizal symbiosis with certain members of the plant family Ericaceae that are characterized by the penetration of hair root cells and the formation of hyphal coils. Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi include diverse species from the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota phyla, and can efficiently decompose biopolymers.
- Free-air CO2 enrichment
An experimental approach that raises the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a specified experimental system, such as a forest stand, and allows the response of the ecosystem to be analysed.
- Oligotrophic microorganisms
Microorganisms found in environments or microhabitats poor in nutrients, particularly carbon, or those habitats where carbon is contained in complex macromolecules that are difficult to utilize.
The capacity of an ecosystem to recover from perturbations.
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Baldrian, P., López-Mondéjar, R. & Kohout, P. Forest microbiome and global change. Nat Rev Microbiol 21, 487–501 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-023-00876-4