Ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with Arctostaphylos usva-ursi in Scotland: Exploring the biogeography of undiscovered fungal communites

Authors: Hesling, Emily & Taylor, Andy
Journal: Karstenia, Volume 53 (2013), Issue 1-2, pages 39-47.
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Key words: ectomycorrhizal, Arcostaphylos uva-ursi, alpine, low-alpine, inoculum, afforestation, Scotland, arctic-alpine mycology

Abstract: In the Scottish alpine environment there is a suite of ecologically significant plant species that are obligately associated with ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. These plant species are in decline, and at present little is known abouth the potentially diverse communities of mycorrhizal fungi associated with them. This study sets out to provide a baseline description of the ECM community associated with Arctostaphylos usva-ursi over seven sub-albine/albine sites in the Scottish highlands. Traditional identification and Sanger sequencing of collected fruit bodies, coupled with next-generation sequencing of host plant root material were used to detect and identify ECM taxa. The ECM community was diverse, with 84 taxa identified to genus level. Only 29 of these are species previously recorded in Scotland. Eight species represent new records for Scotland and the remaining 47 taxa have not yet been identified to species level and are likely to include many currently undescribed species. 39% of species belonged to the genus Cortinarius, whilst Sebacina, Inocybe, Tomentella, Leccinum and Russula were also well represented. Community composition was similar to arctic-alpine ECM communities described elsewhere, but is unique within Scotland. The community was particularly dominated by Suillus variegatus, a species considered to be a specialist associate of Pinus spp. Almost one-fifth of species detected were ‘specialist’ associated of tree species, highlighting the potential capability of A. uva-ursi ECM communities to faciliate upland woodland regeneration in Scotland. This research should draw awareness to a highly diverse, but poorly recorded community, restricted to a rapidly declinging habitat in Scotland.