Biology ETDs

Publication Date



Fungal symbionts, ubiquitous inhabitants of above- and belowground plant tissues, can play important roles in increasing plant tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress. Disruption of plant-fungal interactions may therefore have important consequences for plant responses to climate change. Both altitudinal gradients and warming experiments can be useful tools for understanding responses of symbioses to climate shifts, but the degree to which altitudinal patterns will predict species responses to warming has received little attention for plant-symbiont interactions. This study combined surveys along replicated altitudinal gradients with a long-term warming experiment at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Colorado, USA to test the potential for disruption of plant-fungal symbioses under future climate conditions. Because multiple symbioses within the same host individual may result in complex plant-fungal responses to climate change, we examined the full mycobiome in leaves and roots. Altitudinal patterns in fungal symbioses largely did not correspond to fungal responses to experimental warming, suggesting limited utility of these frequently used methods for predicting fungal responses to climate warming. Variation in temperature influenced fungal colonization, composition, or diversity for some fungal groups and host species. However, our work indicates that effects of climate change on plant-fungal symbioses will depend on host plant identity and fungal functional group, with some associations weakened or disrupted, others affected weakly, and yet others enhanced under climate warming. Predicting how climate change will alter ecologically important symbioses should therefore involve attention to the identity and ecology of both hosts and symbionts. Our approach suggests the strength of comparing environmental gradients to warming experiments in order to gain a more nuanced perspective on how climate change may alter communities and ecosystems.

Project Sponsors

National Science Foundation, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, University of New Mexico Department of Biology




climate change, fungi

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Taylor, D. Lee

Second Committee Member

Takacs-Vesbach, Cristina