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Host species and strain combination determine growth reduction of spruce and birch seedlings colonized by root-associated dark septate endophytes

Authors

  • Vanessa Reininger,

    Corresponding author
    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Forest Pathology and Dendrology, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
      E-mail vanessa.reininger@env.ethz.ch; Tel. (+41) 44 632 3253; Fax (+41) 44 632 1380.
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  • Christoph R. Grünig,

    1. Mycrosynth AG, Schützenstrasse 15, 9436 Balgach, Switzerland.
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  • Thomas N. Sieber

    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Forest Pathology and Dendrology, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
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E-mail vanessa.reininger@env.ethz.ch; Tel. (+41) 44 632 3253; Fax (+41) 44 632 1380.

Summary

Interactions of Betula pendula and Picea abies with dark septate endophytes of the Phialocephala fortiniiAcephala applanata species complex (PAC) were studied. PAC are ubiquitous fungal root symbionts of many woody plant species but their ecological role is largely unknown. Sterile birch and spruce seedlings in monoculture and mixed culture were exposed to four PAC strains, added either singularly or paired in all possible combinations at 18°C and 23°C. Plant and fungal biomass was determined after 4 months. The most significant factors were strain and host combination. One of the strains significantly reduced biomass gain of spruce but not of birch. Plant biomass was negatively correlated with total endophytic fungal biomass in half of the strain – plant combinations. Endophytic PAC biomass was four times higher in spruce (≈ 40 mg g−1 drw) than in birch (≈ 10 mg g−1 drw). Competition between strains was strain-dependent with some strains significantly reducing colonization density of other strains, and, thus, attenuating adverse effects of ‘pathogenic’ strains on plant growth in some strain – plant combinations. Biomass gain of spruce but not of birch was significantly reduced at higher temperature. In conclusion, host, fungal genotype, colonization density and presence of a competing PAC strain were the main determining factors for plant growth.

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