Canadian Forest Service Publications

Fungi associated with tree species at an Alberta oil sands reclamation area, as determined by sporocarp assessments and high-throughput DNA sequencing. 2019. Trofymow, J.A.; Shay, P.-E.; Myrholm, C.L.; Tomm, B.; Bérubé, J.A.; Ramsfield, T.D. Applied Soil Ecology 147(2020):103359.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40145

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.09.009

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


Gateway Hill is a 104-ha area in the oil sands region of Alberta, which was operationally reclaimed and reforested in the late 1980s and certified as reclaimed in 2007/08. In 2014, ∼30 years after reclamation was completed, we began studies with the main objective to determine the soil fungi present at the site. Sporocarp surveys in 2014 and 2016 were used to supplement metagenomic analyses of soil fungi in jack pine (Pinus banksiana), white spruce (Picea glauca), and Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) stands. Fungal internal transcribed spacer amplicons of DNA extracted from forest floor, root, and fine soil fractions were sequenced using Roche 454 pyrosequencing in 2014. Coarse soil reclamation samples and soil samples from a nearby unmined spruce stand were sequenced with Illumina in 2016. Sequenced community assemblages were first assessed using unconstrained multivariate analyses, and then using (partially) constrained ordination techniques to directly account for the effects of tree species and other confounding factors. Based on soil DNA analyses the relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal taxa was greater in spruce stands, saprotrophs were more abundant in pine stands, and pathogens were more abundant in larch stands. Associations of fungal taxa, mostly saprotrophs and ectomycorrhizae, with tree species were especially prominent in root fractions. The sporocarp survey found sporcarp abundance was greatest in pine stands and they tended to have more ectomycorrhizal taxa and spruce and larch stands more saprotrophic taxa. The effects of tree species on fungal taxa differed between the sporocarp surveys and soil DNA analyses: many of the fungi identified by sporocarp presence were not detected by soil DNA sequencing, whereas the latter method detected many more species in all trophic groups. Both DNA sequencing methods showed that many operational taxonomic units were preferentially associated with either spruce or pine stands. Though not definitive, preliminary examination of soil fungi using the Illumina platform showed that a natural spruce stand at the base of Gateway Hill had greater species richness than did reclaimed spruce stands. The results of this study show that communities of soil fungi have become established since the initiation of reclamation. Further work is underway to compare this reclamation site to other unmined forest sites.

Plain Language Summary

During open-pit oil sands mining in northeastern Alberta, land is stripped of above-ground vegetation, and soils and subsoils are stockpiled. These materials are returned to the site after mining is completed, but beneficial soil fungi may have been lost in the intervening years. The degree of long-term recovery of fungal soil communities after reclamation and revegetation is generally unknown. We examined the populations of fungi present in stands of three types of trees growing at Gateway Hill, an area near Fort McMurray that was reclaimed 30 years ago. Using sporocarp (mushroom) surveys and DNA extracted from soil, we were able to identify differences in the fungi present in these stands. We characterized fungi on the basis of their ecosystem function. The relative abundance of different functional groups of fungi in the soils of the three types of stands varied based on tree species: ectomycorrhizal fungi were most abundant in spruce stands, saprotrophs in jack pine stands, and pathogenic fungi in Siberian larch stands. There were differences in the number of fungi identified by sporocarp surveys and DNA-based assessment of soils. This work illustrates that a diverse range of fungi have become established at Gateway Hill 30 years after reclamation.