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Limited transfer of nitrogen between wood decomposing and ectomycorrhizal mycelia when studied in the field

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Transfer of 15N between interacting mycelia of a wood-decomposing fungus (Hypholoma fasciculare) and an ectomycorrhizal fungus (Tomentellopsis submollis) was studied in a mature beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest. The amount of 15N transferred from the wood decomposer to the ectomycorrhizal fungus was compared to the amount of 15N released from the wood-decomposing mycelia into the soil solution as 15N-NH4. The study was performed in peat-filled plastic containers placed in forest soil in the field. The wood-decomposing mycelium was growing from an inoculated wood piece and the ectomycorrhizal mycelium from an introduced root from a mature tree. The containers were harvested after 41 weeks when physical contact between the two foraging mycelia was established. At harvest, 15N content was analyzed in the peat (total N and 15NH4 +) and in the mycorrhizal roots. A limited amount of 15N was transferred to the ectomycorrhizal fungus and this transfer could be explained by 15NH4 + released from the wood-decomposing fungus without involving any antagonistic interactions between the two mycelia. Using our approach, it was possible to study nutritional interactions between basidiomycete mycelia under field conditions and this and earlier studies suggest that the outcomes of such interactions are highly species-specific and depend on environmental conditions such as resource availability.

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Funding was provided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (grants to H. Wallander). Thanks to Nancy Johnson for critical comments on the manuscript. Thanks to Stefan Olsson and von Reiserska Stiftelsen for giving us access to their forest and to Bo and Ingrid Wallander for letting us use Rye cottage as our field laboratory in the study.

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Correspondence to Håkan Wallander.

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Wallander, H., Lindahl, B.D. & Nilsson, L.O. Limited transfer of nitrogen between wood decomposing and ectomycorrhizal mycelia when studied in the field. Mycorrhiza 16, 213–217 (2006).

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