Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-12-2020


Fungi perform several critical functions in the environment. Spatiotemporal distributions of fungal communities will mediate when and where these functions happen and how they vary across the landscape. I first explored tropical tree canopy fungal community variation at small spatial scales and documented near total turnover of fungi across sub-meter distances and among adjacent substrates. The second chapter analyzed fungal turnover over the course of three years, where community stability was driven primarily by abundant fungi. In the third chapter, I tested effects of the environment, including host plant and habitat, on canopy fungal communities and found only small effects, indicating high stochasticity. Finally, I used a greenhouse bioassay to demonstrate that microbial spatial variability impacts plant performance. These results show that fungal communities are spatially variable at small scales, this variability is largely stochastic, and fungi are a source of cryptic environmental heterogeneity with impacts on plant community dynamics.

Project Sponsors

National Science Foundation




fungi, mycorrhizae, spatial ecology, plant-soil feedback, tropical forest, tree canopy

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

D. Lee Taylor

Second Committee Member

Donald Natvig

Third Committee Member

Scott Collins

Fourth Committee Member

Jyotsna Sharma