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Scorched earth: Suillus colonization of Pinus albicaulis seedlings planted in wildfire-impacted soil affects seedling biomass, foliar nutrient content, and isotope signatures

Author(s): Martha L. Jenkins, Cathy L. Cripps, Leslie Gains-Germain
Year Published: 2018
Description:

In western North America ectomycorrhizal fungi are critical to establishment of conifers in low nitrogen soils. Fire can affect both ectomycorrhizal fungi and soil properties, and inoculation with ectomycorrhizal fungi is recommended when planting on burns for restoration. The aim of this study was to examine how Suillus species used in inoculation affect whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis L.) seedlings planted in fire-impacted soil. Methods: In a greenhouse experiment, Suillus-colonized and uncolonized whitebark pine seedlings were planted in unsterilized and sterilized (control) soil from a recent burn. After 6 months, foliar nitrogen and carbon content, concentration, and stable isotope values were assessed, along with growth parameters. Results: When seedlings were colonized, biomass was 61% greater, foliar nitrogen content 25% higher, foliar nitrogen concentration 30–63% lower; needles had lower δ15N and higher δ13C. Differences were more pronounced in sterilized soil where colonization was higher. Foliar N content was negatively correlated with δ15N values. Conclusions: Colonization by host-specific fungi produced larger seedlings with higher foliar nitrogen content in both burn soils. The hypothesis that ectomycorrhizal fungi on roots fractionate nitrogen isotopes leading to lower δ15N in needles is supported. This helps explain restoration outcomes, and bridges the gap between field and in vitro investigations.

Citation: Jenkins, Martha L.; Cripps, Cathy L.; Gains-Germain, Leslie. 2018. Scorched earth: Suillus colonization of Pinus albicaulis seedlings planted in wildfire-impacted soil affects seedling biomass, foliar nutrient content, and isotope signatures. Plant and Soil 425(1-2):113-131.
Topic(s): Recovery after fire
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 17895
FRAMES RCS number: 55830
Record updated: Jul 10, 2018