EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Ectomycorrhizal fungal composition and function predict tree growth across Europe 

Mark Anthony1, Thomas Crowther1, Sietse van der Linde2, Laura Suz3, Martin Bidartondo4, Filipa Cox5, Marcus Schaub6, Pasi Rautio7, Marco Ferretti6, Lars Vesterdal8, Bruno Devos9, and Colin Averill1
Mark Anthony et al.
  • 1ETH Zürich, Integrated Biology , Earth system sciences , Switzerland (
  • 2Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, National Reference Centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 3Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew TW9 3DS, United Kingdom
  • 4Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Ascot SL5 7PY, United Kingdom
  • 5Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom
  • 6Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 7Natural Resources Institute Finland, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • 8Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
  • 9Environment & Climate Unit, Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Geraardsbergen, Belgium

Ectomycorrhizal fungi are central members of the forest fungal community, forming symbiosis with most trees in temperate and boreal forests, enhancing plant access to limiting soil nutrients. Decades of greenhouse studies have shown that specific mycorrhizal fungi enhance tree seedlings growth and nutrient uptake rates, and that these effects are sustained when seedlings are out-planted into regenerating forests. Whether these relationships scale up to affect the growth of mature trees and entire forests harboring diverse fungal communities remains unknown. In this study, we combined a continental set of European forest inventory data from the ICP forest network with molecular ectomycorrhizal fungal community surveys to identify features of the mycorrhizal mycobiome linked to forest productivity. We found that ectomycorrhizal fungal community composition was a key predictor of tree growth, and this effect was robust to statistically accounting for climate, nitrogen deposition, soil inorganic nitrogen availability, soil pH, and forest stand characteristics. Furthermore, ectomycorrhizal fungi with greater genomic investment in energy production and inorganic nitrogen metabolism, but lower investment in organic nitrogen acquisition, were linked to faster tree growth. Lastly, we sampled soils from fast and slow growing forests and introduced their microbiomes into a sterilized growth medium to experimentally isolate microbiome effects on tree development. Consistent with our observational analysis, tree seedling growth was accelerated when inoculated with microbiomes from fast vs. slow growing forests.  By linking molecular community surveys and long-term forest inventory data in the field, and then pairing this with a microbiome manipulation study under controlled conditions, this work demonstrates an emerging link between the forest microbiome and dominant European tree growth rates.

How to cite: Anthony, M., Crowther, T., van der Linde, S., Suz, L., Bidartondo, M., Cox, F., Schaub, M., Rautio, P., Ferretti, M., Vesterdal, L., Devos, B., and Averill, C.: Ectomycorrhizal fungal composition and function predict tree growth across Europe , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7875,, 2021.

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