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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • decomposition;
  • direct method;
  • fungal ecology;
  • particle filtration;
  • tropical microfungi;
  • tropical rain forest.

ABSTRACT

Successional patterns of microfungi on decaying leaves of Ficus pleurocarpa were assessed as part of a study to enumerate microfungi in tropical rain forest leaf litter. Leaves degraded into fragments over a period of 3 mo. Two methods were applied, a direct observational method and a particle filtration protocol. Using a direct method, 104 species were observed, while 53 sporulating taxa and 100 sterile morphotaxa were isolated by particle filtration. Overall patterns of succession were confirmed by both methods, but the relative abundance of species detected differed between the two methods. Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling identified at least four successional stages and suggested that microfungal communities increased in similarity with advancing decay. Data collected by the direct method indicated a slow but steady decline of diversity with advancing decay, whereas an increase in diversity was detected by particle filtration. Synecological succession studies provide a useful tool to identify patterns and generate hypotheses. Understanding the underlying causes of successional patterns will require further autecological studies.