Diversity and density of the EM fungal community present in high elevation Fraser fir forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A study of the diversity and density of ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi in two Fraser fir stands near Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was conducted over a period of three years. Plots were established in three naturally occurring age class treatments including mature tree, sapling, and low regeneration (no trees) sites. Lesser vegetation data were determined for nine plant species within all plots including two ferns and two grasses that impeded survival of Fraser fir seedlings. Diversity and densities of vegetation were significantly greater in low regeneration plots as compared to other treatments. For each plot bryophyte mat forest floor percent occurrence/cover was obtained and percent root colonization/sclerotia of the EM fungus taxa were collected from the three management treatments including 11 decomposers and 33 ectomycorrhizal species. Clavulina cristata occurred in 22.5% of all plots and had a frequency of 1.7% in low regeneration treatments. Four species of Laccaria occurred in 17.3% of all plots, and Laccaria laccata and L. laccata var. pallidifolia were the most common of these species, the former having the highest frequency of occurrence (1.9%) in low regeneration treatments. Four species of Cortinarius occurred in 10.3% of the plots, and Cortinarius anomalus s.l., the most common Cortinarius, occurred in 4.4% of all plots. Seven of the 44 species had significantly greater percent frequency among the three treatments, and six of those were the most frequent in sapling plot treatments at the two locations. Species found at the two locations were similar, although in 2009 their frequency values were greater than in 2010 and 2011 due to greater total precipitation. Mature and sapling plot frequency values were significantly greater than those for low regeneration sites due to the low establishment of Fraser fir. Significant results for species richness, diversity and evenness between years, locations and treatments are present below. Based on percent frequency values, Laccaria could be used in reforestation of Fraser firs in all plots. A project is underway to evaluate seedling establishment and survival following inoculation with Laccaria spp. on a low regeneration site at Mount Buckley.
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