The Effects of Global Changes on Fungal Communities: Measuring Biodiversity Belowground
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Global changes resulting from human activities, including elevated levels of greenhouse gases, enrichment of nitrogen and land use changes, have led to substantial losses in biodiversity of macroscopic organisms, such as plants and animals, but whether these changes will have similar impacts on microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, is less clear. I examined the impact of three of these global changes, including elevated carbon dioxide, increased soil nitrogen availability and large-scale deforestation, on the biodiversity of soil fungi in three separate ecosystems. The responses of fungi to global changes were variable across ecosystems and the experimental system and were not readily predicted by observed changes in the plant community. However, subtle shifts in the community composition of fungi were observed in response to all global changes. Whether these shifts will impact the ecosystem function of these systems in unclear, but previous studies suggest that even small changes in community dynamics can have large effects on important processes, such as nitrogen cycling and carbon storage. These findings indicate that soil fungi do respond to global changes, but additional research must be undertaken to examine the effects of these shifts.