A mutualistic endophyte alters the niche dimensions of its host plant

Study site in Virginia Basin, Gunnison County, Colorado, USA.  (Image source: Melanie R. Kazenel)
Study site in Virginia Basin, Gunnison County, Colorado, USA. (Image source: Melanie R. Kazenel)

Mutualisms can play important roles in influencing species coexistence and determining community composition. However, few studies have tested whether mutualisms may affect species distributions by altering the niches of partner species. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Kazenel et al. show that a fungal endophyte is associated with a shift in the soil moisture niche of its host plant relative to a co-occurring, endophyte-free congener. The endophyte appeared to initially restrict its host’s distribution to wetter microsites before positively affecting its growth, suggesting the value of considering symbiont effects at different partner life stages. Their study identifies a symbiotic relationship as a potential mechanism facilitating the coexistence of two species, suggesting that symbiont effects on host niche may have community-level consequences.


AoB PLANTS is an open-access, online journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of environmental and evolutionary biology. Published by Oxford University Press, AoB PLANTS provides a fast-track pathway for publishing high-quality research, where papers are available online to anyone, anywhere free of charge. Reasons to publish in AoB PLANTS include double-blind peer review of manuscripts, rapid processing time and low open-access charges.

Read this in your language

The Week in Botany

On Monday mornings we send out a newsletter of the links that have been catching the attention of our readers on Twitter and beyond. You can sign up to receive it below.

@BotanyOne on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed...