Occurrence of common phyllosphere fungi of horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is unrelated to degree of damage by leafminer (Cameraria ohridella)

The horse chestnut leaf-miner (Cameraria ohridella Deschka & Dimić, Lepidoptera, Gracillariidae) is an invasive pest causing extensive damage to leaves of the horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) in Europe. In Lithuania, C. ohridella invaded in 2002 causing wilting, browning and premature fall of A. hippocastanum leaves. The aim was to get a better understanding of possible linkages between foliar fungal communities and leaf-miner damage in A. hippocastanum. Leaves of A. hippocastanum, differentially damaged by C. ohridella, were collected in 10 sites in Lithuania. The fungal communities were described through DNA isolation and amplification using an ITS rRNA marker and Ion Torrent-sequencing. Clustering of 214,897 high-quality sequences resulted in 1017 non-singleton fungal taxa, among which Aureobasidium pullulans (28.2% of all fungal sequences), Endoconidioma populi (27.7%), Phoma fungicola (11.3%), Cladosporium ramotenellum (7.6%) and Cryptococcus sp. 2185_4 (5.0%) were most common. Correspondence analysis showed that fungal communities from heavily and slightly damaged leaves were largely intermingled, showing that in both types of samples fungal communities were similar. In conclusion, the study demonstrated that the phyllosphere of A. hippocastanum is inhabited by a high diversity of fungal species, the majority of which constitute generalist endophytes, epiphytes and saprotrophic fungi. The occurrence of common phyllosphere fungi was unrelated to the degree of damage by C. ohridella.