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Environmental impacts on the diversity and functioning of soil fungal networks

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

This exciting and timely project focusses on the interplay between the availability of key plant nutrients, ectomycorrhizal fungal community composition, and forest carbon (C) -cycling.

Deposition of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) to forests is an important factor driving the community composition and functioning of ectomycorrhizal fungi. One wider effect of increasing soil N availability is that other essential plant nutrients such as phosphorus (P) can become limiting. Ectomycorrhizal fungi play a key role in the acquisition of both N and P, but how the relative levels of these two nutrients drive ectomycorrhizal fungal community composition and functioning is not well understood. In this project, we will use a series of field and lab experiments to study 1) the capacity of different ECM fungal species to take up different organic and inorganic P sources 2) how long-term fertilisation of N and N+P has altered the ectomycorrhizal communities of a Swedish scots pine stand 3) how N and P availability interact to alter C-allocation from the plant to its fungal partner and 4) how association with different species of ECM fungi affect the point at which the plant becomes P limited across a gradient of N availability.

Based in the Soil and Ecosystem Ecology lab in Manchester, this project will benefit from state-of-the art facilities and equipment, enabling the application of cutting-edge techniques to tackle the questions outlined above. This will include access to a large collection of ectomycorrhizal fungi, new plant growth facilities, in-house soil analysis and molecular facilities, and expertise and infrastructure to support stable isotope tracing to quantify resource exchange of N, P and C between the plant and fungal partners.

Application Enquiries 

Filipa Cox

Funding Notes

This is a funded studentship covering fees and stipend (£15,285 in 2020-21).
We expect the programme to commence in September 2021.

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