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Current literature suggests ecological niche differentiation between co-occurring Mucoromycotinian arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (M-AMF) and Glomeromycotinian AMF (G-AMF), but experimental evidence is limited. We investigated the influence of soil age, water availability (wet and dry), and plant species (native Microlaena stipoides and exotic Trifolium subterraneum) on anatomical root colonisation and DNA profiles of M-AMF and G-AMF under glasshouse conditions. We grew seedlings of each species in soils collected from the four stages of a soil chronosequence, where pH decreases from the youngest to oldest stages, and phosphorus (P) is low in the youngest and oldest, but high in the intermediate stages. We scored the percentage of root length colonised and used DNA metabarcoding to profile fungal richness and community composition associated with treatment combinations. Soil age, water availability, and plant species were important influencers of root colonisation, although no M-AMF were visible following staining of M. stipoides roots. Soil age and host plant influenced fungal richness and community composition. However, response to soil age, potential host species, and water availability differed between M-AMF and G-AMF. Root colonisation of T. subterraneum by M-AMF and G-AMF was inversely correlated with soil P level. Community composition of M-AMF and G-AMF was structured by soil age and, to a lesser extent, plant species. Richness of M-AMF and G-AMF was negatively, and positively, correlated with available P, respectively. These findings are experimental evidence of ecological niche differentiation of M-AMF and G-AMF and invite further exploration into interactive effects of abiotic and biotic factors on their communities along successional trajectories.
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