Canadian Forest Service Publications

Succession of microfungal assemblages in decomposing peatland plants. 2003. Thormann, M.N.; Currah, R.S.; Bayley, S.E. Plant and Soil 250: 323-333.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 25334

Language: English

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We investigated the microfungal assemblages in the decomposing tissues of dominant plant species in two peatlands in southern boreal Alberta, Canada, to determine if distinct patterns of succession of microfungi occurred throughout the first two years of decomposition. These plant species were Sphagnum fuscum from a bog and Carex aquatilis leaves and rhizomes and Salix planifolia leaves and roots from a riverine, sedge-dominated fen. Canonical correspondence analyses, a multivariate statistical analysis used infrequently in mycological research, revealed distinct patterns of fungal species succession in two of the five litters (S. fuscum and C. aquatilis leaves). Furthermore, our analyses showed that substantially different microfungal assemblages were associated with these litters within the first two years of decomposition. Litter quality variables, such as total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and total carbon tissue nutrient concentrations, explained most of the succession patterns and differences in the microfungal assemblages of these five litters. Our data did not reveal the classical taxonomic zygomycete – ascomycete/fungi imperfecti – basidiomycete pattern of succession during organic matter decomposition. Similarly, a succession of functional groups of microfungi, i.e., cellulose-degraders preceding lignin-degraders, generally was not apparent. Instead, microfungi with broad spectra of enzymatic abilities co-existed over the first two years of decomposition in these peatland plant litters. These microfungi have a limited ability to decompose complex phenolic polymers, such as lignin, resulting in the accumulation of peat in these ecosystems. Some microfungal taxa were not affected by changes in litter quality, environmental variables, or surface water chemistry and were present at all stages of decomposition.