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Long-term soil alteration in historical charcoal hearths affects Tuber melanosporum mycorrhizal development and environmental conditions for fruiting


Abandoned charcoal hearths constitute a very particular habitat for spontaneous fruiting of Tuber melanosporum, leading some harvesters to hypothesise that the fungus could benefit from the alterations that these soils underwent. However, ecological mechanisms involved in this relation are not fully elucidated yet. As a first step to understand it, the influence of long-term soil alteration on the symbiotic stage of T. melanosporum and on selected soil properties considered key to fruiting was assessed by conducting a greenhouse bioassay and a field observational study. In the bioassay, percent root colonisation and relative abundance of T. melanosporum were significantly lower in hearth than in control soils. Hearth soils showed significantly lower resistance to penetration, larger temperature fluctuation, reduced plant cover and reduced herbaceous root abundance. The results do not support the hypothesis that soil from historical charcoal hearths currently enhances development of T. melanosporum mycorrhizas. However, whether this is due to increased infectivity of native ectomycorrhizal communities or to worse conditions for development of T. melanosporum mycorrhizas remains unresolved. Native ectomycorrhizal communities in hearths showed altered composition, although not a clear change in infectivity or richness. Direction of change in hearth soil properties is compared to alteration occurring in soils spontaneously producing T. melanosporum. The interest of these changes to improve T. melanosporum fruiting in plantations is discussed.

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This work was funded by INIA (Government of Spain) project PET2007-13-C07-04. We would like to thank Dr. Cristina Gimeno (Fundación CEAM) for her advice with CO2 efflux measures.

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Correspondence to Sergi Garcia-Barreda.

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Garcia-Barreda, S., Molina-Grau, S., Forcadell, R. et al. Long-term soil alteration in historical charcoal hearths affects Tuber melanosporum mycorrhizal development and environmental conditions for fruiting. Mycorrhiza 27, 603–609 (2017).

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