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Hyperdiversity of ectomycorrhizal fungus assemblages on oak seedlings in mixed forests in the southern Appalachian Mountains

Authors

  • JOHN F. WALKER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24060, USA
      Present address: Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 66506, USA; Fax: (785) 532–6653; E-mail: jfw@ksu.edu
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  • ORSON K. MILLER JR,

    1. Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24060, USA
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  • JONATHAN L. HORTON

    1. Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24060, USA
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    • Present address: Department of Biology, One University Heights, UNC-Asheville CPO#2440, Asheville, NC 28804.


John F. Walker, Present address: Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 66506, USA; Fax: (785) 532–6653; E-mail: jfw@ksu.edu

Abstract

Diversity of ectotrophic mycobionts on outplanted seedlings of two oak species (Quercus rubra and Quercus prinus) was estimated at two sites in mature mixed forests in the southern Appalachian Mountains by sequencing nuclear 5.8S rRNA genes and the flanking internal transcribed spacer regions I and II (ITS). The seedlings captured a high diversity of mycorrhizal ITS-types and late-stage fungi were well represented. Total richness was 75 types, with 42 types having a frequency of only one. The first and second order jackknife estimates were 116 and 143 types, respectively. Among Basidiomycetes, tomentelloid/thelephoroid, russuloid, and cortinarioid groups were the richest. The ascomycete Cenococcum geophilum was ubiquitously present. Dominant fungi included a putative Tuber sp. (Ascomycetes), and Basidiomycetes including a putative Craterellus sp., and Laccaria cf. laccata. Diversity was lower at a drier high elevation oak forest site compared to a low elevation mesic cove — hardwood forest site. Fungal specificity for red oak vs. white oak seedlings was unresolved. The high degree of rarity in this system imposes limitations on the power of community analyses at finer scales. The high mycobiont diversity highlights the potential for seedlings to acquire carbon from mycelial networks and confirms the utility of using outplanted seedlings to estimate ectomycorrhizal diversity.

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