TitleFungi in Permafrost-Affected Soils of the Canadian Arctic: Horizon- and Site-Specific Keystone Taxa Revealed by Co-Occurrence Network
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsVarsadiya, M, Urich, T, Hugelius, G, Barta, J
KeywordsArctic, co-occurrence network, keystone taxa, Permafrost, Zi-Pi plot

Permafrost-affected soil stores a significant amount of organic carbon. Identifying the biological constraints of soil organic matter transformation, e.g., the interaction of major soil microbial soil organic matter decomposers, is crucial for predicting carbon vulnerability in permafrost-affected soil. Fungi are important players in the decomposition of soil organic matter and often interact in various mutualistic relationships during this process. We investigated four different soil horizon types (including specific horizons of cryoturbated soil organic matter (cryoOM)) across different types of permafrost-affected soil in the Western Canadian Arctic, determined the composition of fungal communities by sequencing (Illumina MPS) the fungal internal transcribed spacer region, assigned fungal lifestyles, and by determining the co-occurrence of fungal network properties, identified the topological role of keystone fungal taxa. Compositional analysis revealed a significantly higher relative proportion of the litter saprotroph Lachnum and root-associated saprotroph Phialocephala in the topsoil and the ectomycorrhizal close-contact exploring Russula in cryoOM, whereas Sites 1 and 2 had a significantly higher mean proportion of plant pathogens and lichenized trophic modes. Co-occurrence network analysis revealed the lowest modularity and average path length, and highest clustering coefficient in cryoOM, which suggested a lower network resistance to environmental perturbation. Zi-Pi plot analysis suggested that some keystone taxa changed their role from generalist to specialist, depending on the specific horizon concerned, Cladophialophora in topsoil, saprotrophic Mortierella in cryoOM, and Penicillium in subsoil were classified as generalists for the respective horizons but specialists elsewhere. The litter saprotrophic taxon Cadophora finlandica played a role as a generalist in Site 1 and a specialist in the rest of the sites. Overall, these results suggested that fungal communities within cryoOM were more susceptible to environmental change and some taxa may shift their role, which may lead to changes in carbon storage in permafrost-affected soil.