Ecological Research

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 469–479 | Cite as

Soil spore banks of ectomycorrhizal fungi in endangered Japanese Douglas-fir forests

  • Masao Murata
  • Yuki Nagata
  • Kazuhide Nara
Original Article


Interactions between trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi are critical to the growth and survival of both partners. However, ectomycorrhizal symbiosis has barely been explored in endangered trees, and no information is available regarding soil spore banks of ectomycorrhizal fungi from forests of threatened trees. Here, we evaluated soil spore banks of ectomycorrhizal fungi from endangered Japanese Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga japonica) forests using bioassay approaches with congeneric P. menziesii and Pinus densiflora seedlings in combination with molecular identification techniques. Rhizopogon togasawariana was predominant in soil propagule banks and was found in all remaining P. japonica forests when assayed with P. menziesii, while no colonization of this fungus was observed on Pinus seedlings. Given the observed specificity of R. togasawariana for P. menziesii and its phylogenetic position within the Pseudotsuga-specific Rhizopogon lineage, its geographical distribution is likely restricted to the remaining Japanese Douglas-fir forests, indicating a high extinction risk for this fungus as well as its endangered host. Spore banks of R. togasawariana remained highly infective after preservation for 1 year or heat treatment at 70 °C, suggesting an ecological strategy of establishing ectomycorrhizal associations on regenerating Japanese Douglas-fir seedlings after disturbance, as observed in other Rhizopogon–Pinaceae combinations. Therefore, the regeneration of Japanese Douglas-fir seedlings may depend largely on the soil spore banks dominated by R. togasawariana, which has co-evolved with the Japanese Douglas-fir for over 30 million years. More attention must be paid to underground ectomycorrhizal fungi for the conservation of endangered tree species, especially in the era of human-induced mass extinction.


Ectomycorrhizal fungi Endangered tree species Pseudotsuga japonica (Japanese Douglas-fir) Rhizopogon togasawariana Soil spore-bank 



We thank members of the Aki District Forest Office and the Mie District Forest Office, and Mikio Mochizuki from the Kawakita Forest Office, for their assistance. This study was supported in part by a Grant for Japan-related Research Projects from The Sumitomo Foundation to KN and JSPS KAKENHI Grants to MM (24780143) and KN (21658054, 25660115, 15H02449).

Supplementary material

11284_2017_1456_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (88 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 88 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Frontier SciencesThe University of TokyoKashiwaJapan

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