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Increasing fungal abundance in the substrate enhances seed germination in a fully mycoheterotrophic orchid
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  • Yuan-Yuan Li,
  • Margaux Boeraeve,
  • Yu-Hsiu Cho,
  • Hans Jacquemyn,
  • Yung-I Lee
Yuan-Yuan Li
China Agricultural University College of Plant Protection

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Margaux Boeraeve
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Faculteit Wetenschappen
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Yu-Hsiu Cho
National Museum of Natural Science
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Hans Jacquemyn
University of Leuven
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Yung-I Lee
National Museum of Natural Science
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Mycorrhizal associations are essential for orchid germination and seedling establishment, and thus may constrain the distribution and abundance of orchids under natural conditions. Previous works have shown that germination and seedling establishment in several orchids often decline with increasing distance from adult plants, resulting in nonrandom spatial patterns of seedling establishment. In contrast, individuals of the fully mycoheterotrophic orchid Gastrodia confusoides often tend to have random spatial patterns of distribution within bamboo forests. Since G. confusoides is parasitic on litter-decaying fungi, its random spatial patterns of distribution may be due to highly scattered patterns of litter-decaying fungi within bamboo forests. To test this hypothesis, we first identified the main mycorrhizal fungi associating with developing seeds and adult plants using Miseq high-throughput sequencing. Next, we combined seed germination experiments with quantitative PCR (qPCR) analyses to investigate to what extent the abundance of mycorrhizal fungi affected spatial patterns of seed germination. Our results show that seed germination and subsequent growth to an adult stage in G. confusoides required a distinct switch in mycorrhizal partners, in which protocorms associated with a single Mycena fungus, while adults associated with a fungus from the genus Gymnopus. A strong, positive relationship was observed between germination and Mycena abundance in the litter, but not between germination and Gymnopus abundance. Fungal abundance was not significantly related to the distance from the adult plants, and consequently germination was also not significantly related to the distance from adult plants. Our results provide the first evidence that the spatial distribution and abundance of litter-decaying fungi are distributed randomly within the bamboo forest and independently from G. confusoides adults.