Douglas-fir ectomycorrhizae in 40- and 400-year-old stands: mycobiont availability to late successional western hemlock

T R Horton, R Molina, K Hood
Mycorrhiza 2005, 15 (6): 393-403
We investigated ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi in forest stands containing both early successional Douglas-fir and late successional western hemlock at two points in the typical stand development by identifying EM fungi from roots of Douglas-fir and western hemlock in mixed stands. In an early seral stage forest, EM roots of western hemlock seedlings and intermingling 40-year-old Douglas-fir were sampled. In a late seral stage forest, EM roots of trees of both species were sampled in a 400-year-old stand. We use molecular approaches to identify the symbionts from field samples in this descriptive study. In the early seral stage study, >95% of the western hemlock root tips by biomass were colonized by fungi also colonizing Douglas-fir roots. This result supports the prediction that western hemlock can associate with fungi in Douglas-fir EM networks. In the same study, fungi specific to Douglas-fir colonized 14% of its EM root tips. In the late seral stage study, 14% of the western hemlock root tips were colonized by fungi also observed in association with Douglas-fir, a result strongly influenced by sampling issues and likely represents a conservative estimate of multiple host fungi in this old growth setting. Fungi specific to Douglas-fir colonized 25% of its root tip biomass in the old growth study, in tight coralloid clusters within five of the 24 soil samples. The trends revealed in this study corroborate earlier studies suggesting a predominance of multiple host fungi in mixed communities of EM plants. The role of host-specific fungi in these stands remains unclear.

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