Orchids are critically dependent on fungi for seedling establishment and growth, so the distribution and diversity of orchids might depend on the associated fungal communities. We characterised the communities associated with eight orchid species in three Mediterranean protected areas, using a combination of above-ground analyses of sporophores and below-ground molecular analyses of orchid root samples. In three years of sporophore collection in 25 plots around flowering orchid plants, 268 macrofungal species belonging to 84 genera were observed. Statistical analyses indicated a correlation between macrofungal diversity and orchid community variation, regardless of the effect of environmental and spatial factors characterizing the investigated orchid sites. Fungal ITS-DNA PCR amplification, cloning, and sequencing revealed Rhizoctonia-like fungi belonging to Ceratobasidiaceae (26 %), Tulasnellaceae (22.5 %), and Sebacinaceae (3.5 %), as well as other basidiomycetes and ascomycetes, in the roots of 99 orchid plants. Mycorrhizal specificity was low but co-occurring orchid species showed preferences for diffeent partners. The diverse macrofungal communities found in the sites may contribute to orchid community variation without colonizing the orchid roots. Molecular analyses revealed a segregation of associated fungi, which may contribute to Mediterranean orchid coexistence in nature.
- Endophytic fungi
- Macrofungal communities
- Molecular ecology
- Orchid-fungus relationships
- Spatial distributionSpecies coexistence