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Piracy in the high trees: ectomycorrhizal fungi from an aerial ‘canopy soil’ microhabitat

Orlovich, David A., Draffin, Suzy J., Daly, Robert A., Stephenson, Steven L.
Mycologia 2013 v.105 no.1 pp. 52-60
Cenococcum, Clavulina, Cortinarius, Laccaria, Lactarius, Leotia, Nothofagus menziesii, Russula, Thelephora, Tomentella, adventitious roots, branches, canopy, cluster analysis, coasts, ectomycorrhizae, epiphytes, forest ecosystems, microhabitats, mycorrhizal fungi, nutrients, nutrition, phylotype, rain forests, root tips, sequence analysis, soil, trees, vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae, New Zealand
The mantle of dead organic material ("canopy soil") associated with the mats of vascular and nonvascular epiphytes found on the branches of trees in the temperate rainforests along the southwestern coast of the South Island of New Zealand were examined for evidence of ectomycorrhizal fungi. DNA sequencing and cluster analysis were used to identify the taxa of fungi present in 74 root tips collected from the canopy soil microhabitat of three old growth Nothofagus menziesii trees in the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. A diverse assemblage of ectomycorrhizal fungi was found to infect an extensive network of adventitious canopy roots of Nothofagus menziesii in this forest, including 14 phylotypes from nine genera of putative ectomycorrhizal fungi. Seven of the genera identified previously were known to form ectomycorrhizas with terrestrial roots of Nothofagus: Cortinarius, Russula, Cenococcum, Thelephora/Tomentella, Lactarius and Laccaria; two, Clavulina and Leotia, previously have not been reported forming ectomycorrhizas with Nothofagus. Canopy ectomycorrhizas provide an unexpected means for increased host nutrition that may have functional significance in some forest ecosystems. Presumably, canopy ectomycorrhizas on host adventitious roots circumvent the tree-ground-soil nutrient cycle by accessing a wider range of nutrients directly in the canopy than would be possible for non-mycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal canopy roots. In this system, both host and epiphytes would seem to be in competition for the same pool of nutrients in canopy soil.