MycoKeys 81 (-) 45-68 [2021-06-11; online 2021-06-11]
Forests and woodlands in the West African Guineo-Sudanian transition zone contain many tree species that form symbiotic interactions with ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. These fungi facilitate plant growth by increasing nutrient and water uptake and include many fruiting body-forming fungi, including some edible mushrooms. Despite their importance for ecosystem functioning and anthropogenic use, diversity and distribution of ECM fungi is severely under-documented in West Africa. We conducted a broad regional sampling across five West African countries using soil eDNA to characterize the ECM as well as the total soil fungal community in gallery forests and savanna woodlands dominated by ECM host tree species. We subsequently sequenced the entire ITS region and much of the LSU region to infer a phylogeny for all detected soil fungal species. Utilizing a long read sequencing approach allows for higher taxonomic resolution by using the full ITS region, while the highly conserved LSU gene allows for a more accurate higher-level assignment of species hypotheses, including species without ITS-based taxonomy assignments. We detect no overall difference in species richness between gallery forests and woodlands. However, additional gallery forest plots and more samples per plot would have been needed to firmly conclude this pattern. Based on both abundance and richness, species from the families Russulaceae and Inocybaceae dominate the ECM fungal soil communities across both vegetation types. The community structure of both total soil fungi and ECM fungi was significantly influenced by vegetation types and showed strong correlation within plots. However, we found no significant difference in fungal community structure between samples collected adjacent to different host tree species within each plot. We conclude that within plots, the fungal community is structured more by the overall ECM host plant community than by the species of the individual host tree that each sample was collected from.