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Dwarf mistletoe effects on soil basidiomycete community structure, soil fungal functional diversity, and soil enzyme function: Implications for climate change

Cullings, Ken, Hanely, Julia
Soil biology & biochemistry 2010 v.42 no.11 pp. 1976-1981
Pinus contorta, forest trees, temperate forests, montane forests, Arceuthobium, parasitic plants, forest pests, soil fungi, mycorrhizal fungi, biogeochemical cycles, organic horizons, forest soils, ectomycorrhizae, species diversity, Russula, Basidiomycota, Ascomycota, fungus physiology, geographical distribution, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
We used a combination of molecular, culture and biochemical methods to test the hypothesis that severe infection of pine by dwarf mistletoe (genus Arceuthobium) has significant effects on structure and function of soil fungal communities, and on carbon cycling in soils. PCR and DNA sequencing of the basidiomycete communities in paired blocks of uninfected and infected trees revealed: (1) that the top, organic soil layer in this system is inhabited almost exclusively by ectomycorrhizal fungi; (2) no difference in species richness (6 species core−1 in both) or Shannon–Wiener evenness (0.740 and 0.747 in uninfected and infected blocks respectively), however Shannon–Wiener diversity was significantly greater in infected blocks (1.19 vs 1.94 in uninfected and infected blocks respectively, P < 0.05); (3) significant differences in basidiomycete species composition, with nearly complete absence of two system co-dominant Russula species in infected blocks, and replacement of one co-dominant Piloderma species with another in infected plots, indicating physiological variability within the genus. Soil fungal physiological diversity measured using the Fungilog system was significantly greater in terms of both number of carbon substrates used by culturable soil fungi (both ascomycetes and basidiomycetes) in infected blocks, and the rate at which these substrates were used. Soil enzyme assays revealed greater laccase, peroxidase, and cellulase activities in soils associated with infected trees. Thus, event cascades associated with severe dwarf mistletoe infection not only significantly affected soil fungal species composition and increased species diversity, but also impacted on carbon-related function and functional diversity. Given the geographic range of this pathogen, and forecasts that epidemics of this disease will increase in range in severity with global climate change, these effects have the potential to significantly impact local and global carbon budgets.