The host range of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi in Britain was examined by compilation of a data matrix from published literature sources, based primarily on accounts of sporocarp associations with particular host genera. Information was gathered for 577 species of ECM fungi belonging to 51 genera, and 25 genera of host trees, representing the majority of ECM fungal species and host genera recorded in Britain.
Pronounced variation was recorded in the number of ECM fungal species associated with different host genera, with over 200 species recorded with Betula, Fagus, Pinus and Quercus. There was a positive linear relationship (r2=0·47, P=0·007) between the number of species of ECM fungi associated with different host genera and the total area occupied by each tree genus in Britain (both values log-transformed). There was also variation in the number of species of ECM fungi which were apparently specific to particular host genera, values ranging from zero (in 15 genera) to >40 in the case of Betula and Fagus. In total, 233 fungal species appeared to be specific to a single host genus (i.e. 40% of those surveyed). Comparison of the ECM mycota associated with different host genera by PCA accounted for 17% of the total variation, with genera belonging to the Fagaceae (Quercus, Fagus and Castanea) tending to cluster together, indicating a degree of overlap in their ECM associates. Exotic conifer species, which displayed a lower ECM diversity than would be expected from their distributional areas, were characterized by a high degree of overlap with the ECM associates of Pinus and Betula.
These results indicate that the abundance of different genera of host trees and variation in host specificity could provide a basis for understanding patterns of diversity in ECM fungi within Britain.