Canadian Forest Service Publications

The role of fungi in boreal peatlands. 2006. Thormann, M.N. Pages 101-123 in R.K. Wieder and D.H. Vitt, editors. Boreal Peatland Ecosystems. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, Germany, Ecological Studies, Volume 188.

Year: 2006

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 26308

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

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Wetlands cover about 4 % of the world's landscape and 14 % of the landscape in Canada (National Wetlands Working Group 1988). Peatlands accumulate peat, a heterogeneous assemblage of partially decomposed plant materials (about 45-50% C; Clymo 1984; Clymo et al. 1998). Gorham (1991) estimated that northern peatlands store between 180 and 277 Gt C, which represents about 10-16% of the total global terrestrial detrital C, emphasizing their importance to the global C cycle. Peat accumulates because of an imbalance between plant production and organic matter decomposition (Clymo 1965; MaImer 1986). Despite the prevalence of peatlands in the northern hemisphere and their importance to the global C cycle, relatively little is known about the microbial diversity and roles in these ecosystems, specifically as they pertain to decomposition dynamics. It has long been suggested that fungi are the principal decomposer microbes in many acidic ecosystems, such as many peatlands, and assume a more dominant role than bacteria (Kox 1954; Latter et al. 1967; Williams and Crawford 1983). The objectives of this chapter are to (1) summarize the current knowledge of fungal species richness in peatlands, (2) examine the ability of common saprobes, mycorrhizal fungi, and other root endophytes in peatlands to decompose organic matter, (3) address the significance of litter quality on fungal communities, (4) describe how Sphagnum is decomposed by fungi, and (5) indicate gaps in our understanding of fungal communities and their influence on decomposition dynamics in peatlands.