• community structure;
  • competition;
  • inoculum potential;
  • PCR identification;
  • spore bank;
  • succession

Colonization of mycorrhizal fungi was studied in a Pinus muricata forest on the coast in California, USA, burned by a stand-replacing wildfire in October 1995. Naturally established field seedlings of P. muricata were harvested 1 yr after the fire. The species composition of the mycorrhizal fungi on these field seedlings was dominated by Rhizopogon species, Wilcoxina mikolae and Tomentella sublilacina. Bioassays, set up with soil collected immediately after the fire, were used to determine which mycorrhizal species had colonized the burned area from resistant propagules. The P. muricata seedlings in these bioassays were dominated by suilloid and ascomycetous fungi, the same fungi which dominated the mycorrhizal flora of seedlings in pre-fire bioassays derived from the same forest site, suggesting that resistant propagules were the primary inoculum source for naturally establishing seedlings. Drying of post-fire soil for 1 month raised the number of bioassay seedlings associated with Rhizopogon olivaceotinctus, while the number of bioassay seedlings associated with Rhizopogon ochraceorubens was reduced. Fire appeared to have either stimulated or provided a competitive advantage to R. olivaceotinctus, which increased in abundance on the post-fire bioassay and field seedlings. Soil collected from the burned area was diluted with sterile soil in three different concentrations, and the number and frequency of mycorrhizal taxa on bioassay seedlings decreased with increased dilution. Although precise quantification was not possible, propagules of the Rhizopogon species were much more abundant than those of Tomentella or Wilcoxina species. Differences between the mycorrhizal associates of bioassay seedlings, naturally regenerated seedlings, and different inoculum sources are discussed.