Climate change–induced stress disrupts ectomycorrhizal interaction networks at the boreal–temperate ecotone

Christopher W. Fernandez, Louis Mielke, Artur Stefanski, Raimundo Bermudez, Sarah E. Hobbie, Rebecca A. Montgomery, Peter B. Reich, Peter G. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The interaction networks formed by ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) and their tree hosts, which are important to both forest recruitment and ecosystem carbon and nutrient retention, may be particularly susceptible to climate change at the boreal–temperate forest ecotone where environmental conditions are changing rapidly. Here, we quantified the compositional and functional trait responses of EMF communities and their interaction networks with two boreal (Pinus banksiana and Betula papyrifera) and two temperate (Pinus strobus and Quercus macrocarpa) hosts to a factorial combination of experimentally elevated temperatures and reduced rainfall in a long-term open-air field experiment. The study was conducted at the B4WarmED (Boreal Forest Warming at an Ecotone in Danger) experiment in Minnesota, USA, where infrared lamps and buried heating cables elevate temperatures (ambient, +3.1 °C) and rain-out shelters reduce growing season precipitation (ambient, ~30% reduction). EMF communities were characterized and interaction networks inferred from metabarcoding of fungal-colonized root tips. Warming and rainfall reduction significantly altered EMF community composition, leading to an increase in the relative abundance of EMF with contact-short distance exploration types. These compositional changes, which likely limited the capacity for mycelial connections between trees, corresponded with shifts from highly redundant EMF interaction networks under ambient conditions to less redundant (more specialized) networks. Further, the observed changes in EMF communities and interaction networks were correlated with changes in soil moisture and host photosynthesis. Collectively, these results indicate that the projected changes in climate will likely lead to significant shifts in the traits, structure, and integrity of EMF communities as well as their interaction networks in forest ecosystems at the boreal–temperate ecotone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2221619120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - 2023


  • climate change
  • ectomycorrhiza
  • fungi
  • mycorrhizal interaction network
  • photosynthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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