Variation in the abiotic environment and host plant preferences can affect the composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) assemblages. This study analyzed the AMF taxa present in soil and seedlings of Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis collected from sagebrush steppe communities in southwestern Idaho, USA. Our aims were to determine the AMF diversity within and among these communities and the extent to which preferential AMF–plant associations develop during seedling establishment. Mycorrhizae were identified using molecular methods following DNA extraction from field and pot culture samples. The extracted DNA was amplified using Glomeromycota specific primers, and identification of AMF was based on phylogenetic analysis of sequences from the large subunit-D2 rDNA region. The phylogenetic analyses revealed seven phylotypes, two within the Claroideoglomeraceae and five within the Glomeraceae. Four phylotypes clustered with known species including Claroideoglomus claroideum, Rhizophagus irregularis, Glomus microaggregatum, and Funneliformis mosseae. The other three phylotypes were similar to several published sequences not included in the phylogenetic analysis, but all of these were from uncultured and unnamed glomeromycetes. Pairwise distance analysis revealed some phylotypes with high genetic variation. The most diverse was the phylotype that included R. irregularis, which contained sequences showing pairwise differences up to 12 %. Most of the diversity in AMF sequences occurred within sites. The smaller genetic differentiation detected among sites was correlated with differences in soil texture. In addition, multiplication in pot cultures led to differentiation of AMF communities. Comparison of sequences obtained from the soil with those from A. tridentata roots revealed no significant differences between the AMF present in these samples. Overall, the sites sampled were dominated by cosmopolitan AMF taxa, and young seedlings of A. tridentata ssp. wyomingensis were colonized in relation to the abundance of these taxa in the soil.
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