Ectomycorrhizal fungal communities on seedlings and conspecific trees of Pinus mugo grown on the coastal dunes of the Curonian Spit in Lithuania.
Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) communities of mature trees and regenerating seedlings of a non-native tree species Pinus mugo grown in a harsh environment of the coastal region of the Curonian Spit National Park in Lithuania were assessed. We established three study sites (S1, S2, and S3) that were separated from each other by 15 km. The ECM species richness was rather low in particular for mature, 100-year-old trees: 12 ectomycorrhizal taxa were identified by molecular analysis from 11 distinguished morphotypes. All 12 taxa were present on seedlings and on mature trees, with between 8-11 and 9-11 taxa present on seedlings and mature trees, respectively. Cenococcum geophilum dominated all ECM communities, but the relative abundance of C. geophilum mycorrhizas was nearly two times higher on seedlings than on mature trees. Mycorrhizal associations formed by Wilcoxina sp., Lactarius rufus, and Russula paludosa were also abundant. Several fungal taxa were only occasionally detected, including Cortinarius sp., Cortinarius obtusus, Cortinarius croceus, and Meliniomyces sp. Shannon's diversity indices for the ECM assemblages of P. mugo ranged from 0.98 to 1.09 for seedling and from 1.05 to 1.31 for mature trees. According to analysis of similarity, the mycorrhizal communities were similar between the sites (R = 0.085; P = 0.06) and only slightly separated between seedlings and mature trees (R = 0.24; P < 0.0001). An incidental fruiting body survey that was conducted weakly reflected the below-ground assessment of the ECM fungal community and once again showed that ECM and fruiting body studies commonly supply different partial accounts of the true ECM fungal diversity. Our results show that P. mugo has moved into quite distinct habitats and is able to adapt a suite of ECM symbionts that sufficiently support growth and development of this tree and allow for natural seedling regeneration.
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