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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jul;69(7):3772-6.

Effects of litter addition on ectomycorrhizal associates of a lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) stand in Yellowstone National Park.

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NASA-Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Mountain View, CA 94035-1000, USA.


Increasing soil nutrients through litter manipulation, pollution, or fertilization can adversely affect ectomycorrhizal (EM) communities by inhibiting fungal growth. In this study, we used molecular genetic methods to determine the effects of litter addition on the EM community of a Pinus contorta stand in Yellowstone National Park that regenerated after a stand-replacing fire. Two controls were used; in unmodified control plots nothing was added to the soil, and in perlite plots perlite, a chemically neutral substance, was added to maintain soil moisture and temperature at levels similar to those under litter. We found that (i) species richness did not change significantly following perlite addition (2.6 +/- 0.3 species/core in control plots, compared with 2.3 +/- 0.3 species/core in perlite plots) but decreased significantly (P < 0.05) following litter addition (1.8 +/- 0.3 species/core); (ii) EM infection was not affected by the addition of perlite but increased significantly (P < 0.001) in response to litter addition, and the increase occurred only in the upper soil layer, directly adjacent to the added litter; and (iii) Suillus granulatus, Wilcoxina mikolae, and agaricoid DD were the dominant organisms in controls, but the levels of W. mikolae and agaricoid DD decreased significantly in response to both perlite and litter addition. The relative levels of S. granulatus and a fourth fungus, Cortinariaceae species 2, increased significantly (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively) following litter addition. Thus, litter addition resulted in some negative effects that may be attributable to moisture-temperature relationships rather than to the increased nutrients associated with litter. Some species respond positively to litter addition, indicating that there are differences in their physiologies. Hence, changes in the EM community induced by litter accumulation also may affect ecosystem function.

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