• Phlebiopsis gigantea;
  • biocontrol;
  • environmental impact;
  • fungal ecology;
  • soil fungi


The aim of this study was to assess belowground occurrence, persistence and possible impact of the biocontrol agent Phlebiopsis gigantea (Fr.) Jülich on soil fungi. Sampling of soil and roots of Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. was carried out at 12 P. gigantea-treated and five nontreated control sites representing 1- to 60-month-old clear-cuts and thinned forest sites in Finland and Latvia. The 454-sequencing of ITS rRNA from fine roots, humus and mineral soil resulted in 8626 high-quality fungal sequences. Phlebiopsis gigantea represented 1.3% of all fungal sequences and was found in 14 treated and nontreated sites and in all three substrates. In different substrates, the relative abundance of P. gigantea at stump treatment sites either did not differ significantly or was significantly lower than in nontreated controls. No significant correlation was found between the time elapsed since the tree harvesting and/or application of the biocontrol and abundance of P. gigantea in different substrates. In conclusion, the results demonstrate that P. gigantea occasionally occurs belowground in forest ecosystems but that stump treatment with the biocontrol agent has little or no impact on occurrence and persistence of P. gigantea belowground, and consequently no significant impact on soil fungi.