Environmental drivers and cryptic biodiversity hotspots define endophytes in Earth's largest terrestrial biome

Jana M. U'Ren, Shuzo Oita, François Lutzoni, Jolanta Miadlikowska, Bernard Ball, Ignazio Carbone, Georgiana May, Naupaka B. Zimmerman, Denis Valle, Valerie Trouet, A. Elizabeth Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding how symbiotic associations differ across environmental gradients is key to predicting the fate of symbioses as environments change, and it is vital for detecting global reservoirs of symbiont biodiversity in a changing world.1,2,3 However, sampling of symbiotic partners at the full-biome scale is difficult and rare. As Earth's largest terrestrial biome, boreal forests influence carbon dynamics and climate regulation at a planetary scale. Plants and lichens in this biome host the highest known phylogenetic diversity of fungal endophytes, which occur within healthy photosynthetic tissues and can influence hosts’ resilience to stress.4,5 We examined how communities of endophytes are structured across the climate gradient of the boreal biome, focusing on the dominant plant and lichen species occurring across the entire south-to-north span of the boreal zone in eastern North America. Although often invoked for understanding the distribution of biodiversity, neither a latitudinal gradient nor mid-domain effect5,6,7 can explain variation in endophyte diversity at this trans-biome scale. Instead, analyses considering shifts in forest characteristics, Picea biomass and age, and nutrients in host tissues from 46° to 58° N reveal strong and distinctive signatures of climate in defining endophyte assemblages in each host lineage. Host breadth of endophytes varies with climate factors, and biodiversity hotspots can be identified at plant-community transitions across the boreal zone at a global scale. Placed against a backdrop of global circumboreal sampling,4 our study reveals the sensitivity of endophytic fungi, their reservoirs of biodiversity, and their important symbiotic associations, to climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1148-1156.e7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 11 2024


  • Ascomycota
  • biodiversity
  • boreal forest
  • climate change
  • lichen
  • moss
  • spruce
  • symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental drivers and cryptic biodiversity hotspots define endophytes in Earth's largest terrestrial biome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this