The role of biotic and abiotic factors in shaping the diversity and composition of communities of plant viruses remain understudied, particularly in natural settings. In this study, we test the effects of host identity, location, and sampling year on the taxonomic composition of plant viruses in six native plant species [Ambrosia psilostachya (Asteraceae), Vernonia baldwinii (Asteraceae), Asclepias viridis (Asclepiadaceae), Ruellia humilis (Acanthaceae), Panicum virgatum (Poaceae) and Sorghastrum nutans (Poaceae)] from the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma. We sampled over 400 specimens of the target host plants from twenty sites (plots) in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve over 4 years and tested them for the presence of plant viruses applying virus-like particle and double-stranded RNA enrichment methods. Many of the viral sequences identified could not be readily assigned to species, either due to their novelty or the shortness of the sequence. We thus grouped our putative viruses into operational viral taxonomic units for further analysis. Partial canonical correspondence analysis revealed that the taxonomic composition of plant viruses in the target species had a significant relationship with host species (P value: 0.001) but no clear relation with sampling site or year. Variation partitioning further showed that host identity explained about 2-5 per cent of the variation in plant virus composition. We could not interpret the significant relationship between virus composition and host plants with respect to host taxonomy or ecology. Only six operational viral taxonomic units had over 5 per cent incidence over a 4-year period, while the remainder exhibited sporadic infection of the target hosts. This study is the first of its kind to document the dynamics of the entire range of viruses in multiple plant species in a natural setting.
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