Decomposition and Fungi of Needle Litter from Slow- and Fast-growing Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Clones
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- Korkama-Rajala, T., Müller, M.M. & Pennanen, T. Microb Ecol (2008) 56: 76. doi:10.1007/s00248-007-9326-y
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The fungal species involved in the decomposition of needle litter and their response to intraspecific genetic variation of trees are poorly known. First, we compared the needle decomposition and fungal decomposers underneath eight different Norway spruce clones in situ. This experiment revealed 60−70% loss of needle mass in two years. Although spruce clones differed considerably in growth (twofold height difference) and their needles differed in chemical composition, no significant difference was found for loss of needle mass under the spruce clones. Furthermore, the spruce clones did not affect the community structure of the fungal decomposers. Fungi inhabiting needle litter were identified by extracting ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and sequencing complementary DNA (cDNA) of internal trascribed spacer 1 (ITS1) region. The most frequent identifications were Lophodermium, Pezizales, Mycena, and Marasmius, suggesting that endophytic fungi were involved in the decomposition process. Second, we evaluated the potential of endophytes to decompose needle material in a microcosm experiment in which all other fungi than endophytes were excluded. Within 2 years, the endophytes had decomposed 35−45% of the needle mass. Sequences of Mollisia, Lophodermium, Lachnum, and Phialocephala were most frequently found in rRNA and rDNA extracted from the needles at the end of the microcosm experiment. The dominant needle endophyte in fresh, green needles was Lophodermium piceae, and this species was also found frequently in the needle material after 2 years of decay both in the field and laboratory experiments. Moreover, the relative abundance of Lophodermium-derived denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) bands correlated positively with the decomposition in the microcosm experiment. Hence, our results suggest a significant role of endophytic fungi, and particularly L. piceae, in the process of needle decomposition in boreal forests.