The effects of fungal inoculum arrangement (scale and context) on emergent community development in an agar model system
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Consequences of initial spatial organisation of model fungal communities upon their spatio-temporal development were investigated. Dynamics of prescribed two- and three-species 'communities' developing on tessellated agar tile model systems were analysed in terms of literal maps, principal component analyses, or as the proportion of species extant within tiles. It was established that for two-species interactions of equal patch size, large-scale (i.e. many constituent tiles) behaviour could be extrapolated from the relevant small-scale (i.e. pairs of tiles) interactions. However, relative patch sizes (scale) of species within tessellations influenced the times taken by individuals to colonise tiles and, hence, temporal behaviour of the system. Outcome of arrangements involving three species of equal patch size and inoculum potential, and prescribed with different mixing patterns, could not be directly extrapolated by reference to the outcome of pair-wise interactions between constituent species. Three-species arrangements attempt to limit assembly of lateral aggregates of individuals (patch size) and hence any effects of tile colonisation times, so as to reveal effects of nearest neighbour context within the complex community. Such arrangements indicate that spatial configuration of inoculum influences community development and reproducibility. They also suggest that spatial distribution of species affects persistence of individuals, which would otherwise be expected to be eliminated from the system. Two-species interactions appeared generally more reproducible than those comprising three species, and the sensitivity of fungal community development to temperature was not solely associated with influence on colony extension rate.