Accounting for Local Adaptation in Ectomycorrhizas: A Call to Track Geographical Origin of Plants, Fungi, and Soils in Experiments

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Local adaptation, the differential success of genotypes in their native versus foreign environments, can influence ecological and evolutionary processes, yet its importance is difficult to estimate because it has not been widely studied, particularly in the context of interspecific interactions. Interactions between ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi and their host plants could serve as model system for investigations of local adaptation because they are widespread and affect plant responses to both biotic and abiotic selection pressures. Furthermore, because EM fungi cycle nutrients and mediate energy flow into food webs, their local adaptation may be critical in sustaining ecological function. Despite their ecological importance and an extensive literature on their relationships with plants, the vast majority of experiments on EM symbioses fail to report critical information needed to assess local adaptation: the geographic origin of the plant, fungal inocula, and soil substrate used in the experiment. These omissions limit the utility of such studies and restrict our understanding of EM ecology and evolution. Here, we illustrate the potential importance of local adaptation in EM relationships and call for consistent reporting of the geographic origin of plant, soil, and fungi as an important step towards a better understanding of the ecology and evolution of EM symbioses.



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