Fungal community composition shifts along a leaf degradation gradient in a European beech forest
The fungal communities in living and decomposed leaves of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) were compared to identify the phyllosphere fungi involved in litter decomposition at a site in Bavaria, Germany.
New primers were designed to cover a broad range of fungal ribosomal DNA sequence diversity. Following ‘environmental PCR’, clone libraries from each of five samples of living leaves (surface-sterilized and untreated), freshly fallen, initially and highly decomposed leaves, were screened using RFLP fingerprinting.
Statistical analysis (ANOSIM) revealed that the fungal communities colonizing living (a) and initially decomposed leaves (c) significantly differed between each other and from freshly fallen (b) and highly decomposed leaves (d). Fungal assemblages of a and d were statistically indistinguishable from each other and from the endophyllous fungal community in living leaves.
The results showed that endophyllous fungi play a role throughout the whole decomposition process of beech leaf litter. Therefore, clarification of the life cycle of certain endophytic and/or soil fungi may only be achieved by considering both phyllosphere and soil habitats.
KeywordsFagus sylvatica (European Beech) Phyllosphere Endophytic fungi Soil fungi ITS rRNA gene RFLP fingerprints
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