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© 2015 Weber et al. Nonnative Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) is decimating sagebrush steppe, one of the largest ecosystems in the Western United States, and is causing regional-scale shifts in the predominant plant-fungal interactions. Sagebrush, a native perennial, hosts arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), whereas cheatgrass, a winter annual, is a relatively poor host of AMF. This shift is likely intertwined with decreased carbon (C)-sequestration in cheatgrass-invaded soils and alterations in overall soil fungal community composition and structure, but the latter remain unresolved. We examined soil fungal communities using high throughput amplicon sequencing (ribosomal large subunit gene) in the 0-4 cm and 4-8 cm depth intervals of six cores from cheatgrass- and six cores from sagebrush-dominated soils. Sagebrush core surfaces (0-4 cm) contained higher nitrogen and total C than cheatgrass core surfaces; these differences mirrored the presence of glomalin related soil proteins (GRSP), which has been associated with AMF activity and increased C-sequestration. Fungal richness was not significantly affected by vegetation type, depth or an interaction of the two factors. However, the relative abundance of seven taxonomic orders was significantly affected by vegetation type or the interaction between vegetation type and depth. Teloschistales, Spizellomycetales, Pezizales and Cantharellales were more abundant in sagebrush libraries and contain mycorrhizal, lichenized and basal lineages of fungi. Only two orders (Coniochaetales and Sordariales), which contain numerous economically important pathogens and opportunistic saprotrophs, were more abundant in cheatgrass libraries. Pleosporales, Agaricales, Helotiales and Hypocreales were most abundant across all libraries, but the number of genera detected within these orders was as much as 29 times lower in cheatgrass relative to sagebrush libraries. These compositional differences between fungal communities associated with cheatgrass- and sagebrush-dominated soils warrant future research to examine soil fungal community composition across more sites and time points as well as in association with native grass species that also occupy cheatgrass-invaded ecosystems.

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