Mycological Research
1999. 103: 1353-1359.

Early effects of prescribed fire on the structure of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community in a Sierra Nevada ponderosa pine forest

Stendell, E.R.1, T.R. Horton2 and T.D. Bruns 3

1 Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA

2 Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

3 Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall, University of California, Berkeley, California, 94720, USA
The effects of a prescribed fire on the presence of ectomycorrhizal fungi on the root tips of ponderosa pine were investigated one year after a prescribed ground fire. Ectomycorrhizae were sampled within one square meter plots before and one year after the fire, and in nearby control plots that were not burned. The cores were divided into litter/organic, upper mineral, and lower mineral layers. The total ectomycorrhizal biomass in the control plots did not differ between year one and year two samples for any core layer, while in the fire plots the destruction of the litter/organic layer resulted in an eight-fold reduction in total ectomycorrhizal biomass. Mycorrhizal biomass in the two mineral layers was not significantly reduced by the fire. We used molecular tools to identify fungi directly from the ectomycorrhizas. In unburned plots members of the Russulaceae and Thelephoraceae were among the most frequent and abundant ectomycorrhizal types; species of most other taxa were rare. In the control plots these two families were among the dominant species in both years, but patchiness on a fine spatio-temporal scale caused some major changes in ranking of individual species between sample years. Rhizopogon subcaerulescens was the most pronounced example; its biomass in the control plot samples was seven times greater in year two than in year one because of an exceptionally large cluster of mycorrhizas encountered in a single core. The effect of fire on individual species was difficult to assess because of this patchiness and because all species were low in abundance after the fire. The most abundant pre-fire species were reduced to undetectable post-fire levels, while several less abundant species, including Rhizopogon subcaerulescens, Cenococcum geophilum, and several unknown types were not substantially reduced by the fire. We speculate that the more abundant species, Martellia sp., thelephoroid 1, and Tomentella sublilacina, were differentially affected because their dominance was most prominent at the litter and organic layers. In any case, a short-term effect of this fire appears to be increased species evenness.

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