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Anthropogenic disturbance impacts mycorrhizal communities and abiotic soil properties: Implications for an endemic forest disease

Sapsford, S.J., Paap, T., Hardy, G.E.St.J. and Burgess, T.I.ORCID: 0000-0002-7962-219X (2021) Anthropogenic disturbance impacts mycorrhizal communities and abiotic soil properties: Implications for an endemic forest disease. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 3 . Article 593243.

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In forest ecosystems, habitat fragmentation negatively impacts stand structure and biodiversity; the resulting fragmented patches of forest have distinct, disturbed edge habitats that experience different environmental conditions than the interiors of the fragments. In southwest Western Australia, there is a large-scale decline of the keystone tree species Corymbia calophylla following fragmentation and land use change. These changes have altered stand structure and increased their susceptibility to an endemic fungal pathogen, Quambalaria coyrecup, which causes chronic canker disease especially along disturbed forest habitats. However, the impacts of fragmentation on belowground processes in this system are not well-understood. We examined the effects of fragmentation on abiotic soil properties and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal communities, and whether these belowground changes were drivers of disease incidence. We collected soil from 17 sites across the distribution range of C. calophylla. Soils were collected across a gradient from disturbed, diseased areas to undisturbed, disease-free areas. We analysed soil nutrients and grew C. calophylla plants as a bioassay host. Plants were harvested and roots collected after 6 months of growth. DNA was extracted from the roots, amplified using fungal specific primers and sequenced using Illumina MiSeq. Concentrations of key soil nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium were much higher along the disturbed, diseased edges in comparison to undisturbed areas. Disturbance altered the community composition of ECM and AM fungi; however, only ECM fungal communities had lower rarefied richness and diversity along the disturbed, diseased areas compared to undisturbed areas. Accounting for effects of disturbance, ECM fungal diversity and leaf litter depth were highly correlated with increased disease incidence in C. calophylla. In the face of global change, increased virulence of an endemic pathogen has emerged in this Mediterranean-type forest.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Climate-Impacted Terrestrial Ecosystems
Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Frontiers Media
Copyright: © 2021 Sapsford, Paap, Hardy and Burgess
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