Fungal endophytes are a highly diverse group of fungi that asymptomatically inhabit all plant parts. Their beneficial impact on plant health is well documented and development of the anti-inflammatory or antibiotic-like secondary metabolites they produce for agricultural and human health purposes is a growing field of research. Little is known regarding their diversity across the Australian landscape or their host specificity in tropical trees.
Leaf material was collected from Elaeocarpus carolinae from mountain-tops across the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland and from Elaeocarpus grandis, Endiandra microneura and Normanbya normanbyii from a lowland site in Cape Tribulation, northern Queensland. Whole genomic DNA was extracted from surface sterilised leaves and the fungal component sequenced using amplicon next generation sequencing. Differences between sites and hosts were assessed and visualised using permutational anova and constrained ordination respectively.
Fungal endophyte communities were significantly different between mountain top sites (E. carolinae) and between tree hosts (E. grandis, E. microneura and N. normanbyii). Some endophyte communities were more similar to those from nearby mountain tops than distant mountains and communities of E. grandis and N. normanbyii were more similar to each other than to E. microneura. These results show tree host and locality do influence fungal endophyte communities but a broader sampling of hosts and localities is necessary to better understand the relationship between host genetic diversity and the composition of fungal endophyte communities across the landscape.