Interplay between endophyte prevalence, effects and transmission: Insights from a natural grass population

Anaïs Gibert, Danièle Magda, Laurent Hazard

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Two main mechanisms are thought to affect the prevalence of endophyte-grass symbiosis in host populations: the mode of endophyte transmission, and the fitness differential between symbiotic and non-symbiotic plants. These mechanisms have mostly been studied in synthetic grass populations. If we are to improve our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of such symbioses, we now need to determine the combinations of mechanisms actually operating in the wild, in populations shaped by evolutionary history. We used a demographic population modeling approach to identify the mechanisms operating in a natural stand of an intermediate population (i.e. 50% of plants symbiotic) of the native grass Festuca eskia.We recorded demographic data in the wild over a period of three years, with manipulation of the soil resources for half the population. We developed two stage-structured matrix population models. The first model concerned either symbiotic or non-symbiotic plants. The second model included both symbiotic and non-symbiotic plants and took endophyte transmission rates into account. According to our models, symbiotic had a significantly higher population growth rate than non-symbiotic plants, and endophyte prevalence was about 58%. Endophyte transmission rates were about 0.67 or 0.87, depending on the growth stage considered. In the presence of nutrient supplementation, population growth rates were still significantly higher for symbiotic than for non-symbiotic plants, but endophyte prevalence fell to 0%. At vertical transmission rates below 0.10-0.20, no symbiosis was observed. Our models showed that a positive benefit of the endophyte and vertical transmission rates of about 0.6 could lead to the coexistence of symbiotic and non-symbiotic F. eskia plants. The positive effect of the symbiont on host is not systematically associated with high transmission rates of the symbiont over short time scales, in particular following an environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0139919
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2015

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