Ecol Evol 13 (5) e10065 [2023-05-00; online 2023-05-21]
The distribution and community assembly of above- and belowground microbial communities associated with individual plants remain poorly understood, despite its consequences for plant-microbe interactions and plant health. Depending on how microbial communities are structured, we can expect different effects of the microbial community on the health of individual plants and on ecosystem processes. Importantly, the relative role of different factors will likely differ with the scale examined. Here, we address the driving factors at a landscape level, where each individual unit (oak trees) is accessible to a joint species pool. This allowed to quantify the relative effect of environmental factors and dispersal on the distribution of two types of fungal communities: those associated with the leaves and those associated with the soil of Quercus robur trees in a landscape in southwestern Finland. Within each community type, we compared the role of microclimatic, phenological, and spatial variables, and across community types, we examined the degree of association between the respective communities. Most of the variation in the foliar fungal community was found within trees, whereas soil fungal community composition showed positive spatial autocorrelation up to 50 m. Microclimate, tree phenology, and tree spatial connectivity explained little variation in the foliar and soil fungal communities. Foliar and soil fungal communities differed strongly in community structure, with no significant concordance detected between them. We provide evidence that foliar and soil fungal communities assemble independent of each other and are structured by different ecological processes.