About the Project
Project Summary: The project will use a combination of laboratory and field experiments to tackle the three broad questions, above. This combined approach also enables experiments to be designed that provide rigorous and precise manipulation of specific factors, alongside more ecologically-relevant assessments of functioning of fungal networks in the field. We will undertake several field-based assessments of mycorrhizal network function and distribution. The first will comprise an assessment of the distribution of specific genotypes of ectomycorrhizal fungi in distinct forest plots using molecular markers. Maps of the distribution of fungal genotypes will permit visualization and assessment of the extent of common mycorrhizal networks in different forest types. The second approach will use mesh cores to assess the importance of local common mycorrhizal networks for establishment, colonization by fungi and growth of tree seedlings under different experimental settings. For example, we have access to large-scale climate manipulation experiments and one possible line of inquiry will be to test how drought affects mycorrhizal functioning through impacts on the development of fungal networks. Laboratory experiments will comprise tree seedlings of different relatedness that are inoculated with specific mycorrhizal fungi. They will be grown in systems that permit the formation of common mycorrhizal networks. Once established, individual ‘donor’ trees will be subjected to herbivory and chemical and biological responses of neighbours quantified. Collectively, the results will lead to improved understanding of the factors that govern the function and extent of common mycorrhizal networks. The project provides opportunities for training in molecular biology techniques, sterile techniques, plant and fungal ecology and soil science.
2Babikova Z, Johnson D, Bruce TJA, Pickett JA & Gilbert L (2013) Underground allies: how and why do mycelial networks help plants defend themselves? BioEssays 36, 21-26. doi/10.1002/bies.201300092/pdf
3Song YY, Simard SW, Carroll A, Mohn WW, Zeng RS. 2015. Defoliation of interior Douglas-fir elicits carbon transfer and stress signalling to ponderosa pine neighbors through ectomycorrhizal networks. Scientific Reports 5: 8495.
4Pickles BJ, Willhelm R, Asay AK, Hahn AS, Simard SW & Mohn WW. Transfer of 13C between paired Douglas-fir seedlings reveals plant kinship effects and uptake of exudates by ectomycorrhizas. New Phytologist 214, 400-411.
5Selosse M-A, Richard F, He XH, Simard SW. 2006. Mycorrhizal networks: des liaisons dangereuses? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21: 621–628.
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