Genetically determined fungal pathogen tolerance and soil variation influence ectomycorrhizal traits of loblolly pine
Selection on genetically correlated traits within species can create indirect effects on one trait by selection on another. The consequences of these trait correlations are of interest because they may influence how suites of traits within species evolve under differing selection pressures, both natural and artificial. By utilizing genetic families of loblolly pine either tolerant (t) or susceptible (s) to two different suites of pathogenic fungi responsible for causing either pine decline or fusiform rust disease, we investigated trait variation and trait correlations within loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) by determining how ectomycorrhizal (EM) colonization relates to pathogen susceptibility. We detected interactions between susceptibility to pathogenic fungi and soil inoculation source on loblolly pine compatibility with the EM fungi Thelephora, and on relative growth rate of loblolly pine. Additionally, we detected spatial variation in the loblolly pine–EM fungi interaction, and found that variation in colonization rates by some members of the EM community is not dictated by genetic variation in the host plant but rather soil inoculation source alone. The work presented here illustrates the potential for indirect selection on compatibility with symbiotic EM fungi as a result of selection for resistance to fungal pathogens. Additionally, we present evidence that the host plant does not have a single “mycorrhizal trait” governing interactions with all EM fungi, but rather that it can interact with different fungal taxa independently. Synthesis. An understanding of the genetic architecture of essential traits in focal species is crucial if we are to anticipate and manage the results of natural and artificial selection. As demonstrated here, an essential but often overlooked symbiosis (that between plants and mycorrhizal fungi) may be indirectly influenced by directed selection on the host plant.