Why study endophytes?
Endophytes are hyperdiverse at the species level, phylogenetically rich, ecologically important, evolutionarily dynamic, and represent an under-explored trove of taxonomic, genetic, and functional diversity. Estimated to comprise as many as 1 million species – less than 1% of which have been described to date -- endophytes have been found in every plant and lichen species, including wild-, crop- and forage plants in all terrestrial biomes sampled so far.
Endophyte communities often change markedly across hosts’ geographic ranges and overlap among biogeographic provinces is rare. Endophytes produce metabolites of use in agriculture, medicine, and industry, and can provide an array of previously understudied benefits to their hosts, including defense against pests and pathogens, and – of special relevance in the era of climate change – tolerance to stresses such as heat and drought. Although rich in all terrestrial communities, endophytes peak in phylogenetic diversity in boreal forests, an imperiled ecosystem of immense global importance and one in which their ecological associations, genetic diversity, and functional roles are largely unknown.