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An examination of the ecology and influence of mycorrhizal fungi in UK woodlands using modelling, field studies and restoration experiments

Guy, P. (2022) An examination of the ecology and influence of mycorrhizal fungi in UK woodlands using modelling, field studies and restoration experiments. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113413


This work presents several topics on the role of mycorrhizal fungi in woodland ecosystem function. We start with an exploration of the subset of ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) with a limited host range, referred to as specialists. Although empirical data demonstrates the existence of specialist and generalist EMF, we do not fully understand the functional differences between them. We therefore use game theory to explore the question, ’what is a specialist EMF?’ Mycorrhizal fungi play a fundamental part in plant soil dynamics; they influence plant interactions and are major contributors to plant nutrition and health. However, the role of mycorrhizal fungi in woodland conservation and management is still not fully appreciated. We have therefore carried out an in-depth study of the mycorrhizal type of British woody plants which will be accessible to woodland specialists, but perhaps not mycorrhizal specialists, in the hope that this will make decisions involving mycorrhizal type straightforward and accessible. We also show the importance of knowing the mycorrhizal type of woodland plants by demonstrating the relationship between the mycorrhizal type of trees and understory species richness. Detailed data of the distribution of EMF is still sparse, we therefore also carried out extensive field work to ascertain the taxa associated with oaks (Quercus robur, Q. petraea) in Britain. Further, we used multi-site generalised dissimilarity models to explore the drivers of turnover of these communities and how they differed for rare and common species. We show that, whilst species richness of EMF was positively correlated with soil potassium, atmospheric pollutants were the most important drivers of community change. Soil translocation is often used as a means to enhance biodiversity in the restoration of ancient woodlands, however, little is known about the potential of this process as a supply of EMF inoculum. We therefore conducted a pilot study into the potential use of bait trees as a means to examine the the EMF inoculum in these soils by measuring the colonisation rate of saplings planted in a restoration woodland. The study allowed us to isolate several important elements for improvement in the experimental method, as well as several additional components which would allow more precise information regarding inoculum potential of these soils.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Pickles, B.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Biological Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences
ID Code:113413


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