Climate change and Epichloë coenophiala association modify belowground fungal symbioses of tall fescue host

Lindsey C. Slaughter, Jim A. Nelson, Elizabeth Carlisle, Marie Bourguignon, Randy D. Dinkins, Timothy D. Phillips, Rebecca L. McCulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Human alteration of symbiont genetics among aboveground endophytic Epichloë coenophiala strains within tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) has led to widespread deployment of novel grass-endophyte combinations, yet little is known about their ecological consequences. In this study, clone pairs (endophyte-infected, endophyte-free) of two tall fescue genotypes received factorial combinations of increased temperature (+3 °C) and precipitation (+30% long-term annual mean) for 2 yr. We measured root arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), dark septate endophyte (DSE) colonization, and soil AMF extraradical hyphae (ERH) length. We hypothesized that genetically distinct grass-E. coenophiala associations would differentially affect belowground fungi, and that these relationships would be climate-sensitive. Tall fescue genotype, endophyte presence, and climate treatment interactions affected AMF arbuscules, vesicles, and ERH. DSE decreased with E. coenophiala presence but increased with warming. Genetically distinct tall fescue-E. coenophiala associations may have divergent long-term impacts on other host-symbiont interactions, potentially impacting ecosystem function and response to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalFungal Ecology
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture Research Office , the U.S. Dep. of Energy ( 08-SC-NICCR-1073 ), NSF ( DEB-1021222 ), and a cooperative agreement with the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station ( KY006045 ), the USDA-ARS Forage Animal Production Research Unit ( 58-6440-7-135 ), and University of Kentucky Department of Plant and Soil Sciences . We thank Sarah Janse of the Univ. of Kentucky Dep. of Statistics for assistance in statistical analysis, and J. Crutchfield for plant N and P analysis. We also thank Carolyn Young and her team for assistance and training in endophyte presence and genetic verification analyses within her laboratory at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Thanks to Pierre Mas, Anna Joy Thompson, and Josephine Wendroth for their many hours spent diligently brushing and washing roots and sieving soils for this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and British Mycological Society


  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Climate change
  • Dark septate endophyte
  • Grassland
  • Neotyphodium
  • Warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Plant Science


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