Manipulating soil fungal communities as a tool to restore forests post-mountain pine beetle in western Canada

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Joshua Wasyliw, Evan Fellrath, Gregory Pec, James Franklin, Jonathan Cale, Charlotte Thomasson, Nadir Erbilgin and Justine Karst

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Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has killed large areas of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) forests in western Canada. In some stands of beetle-killed trees, lodgepole pine regeneration is limited, possibly as a consequence of the loss and change in community composition of ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with pine trees. In this landscape-level field experiment, we tested whether we could improve pine seedling establishment in these stands by manipulating the communities of ectomycorrhizal fungi with which seedlings interact. Specifically, we tested whether we could restore ectomycorrhizal fungi in stands of beetle-killed trees by first inoculating seedlings with soil from intact pine forests and then transplanting them to field sites. Two years following transplanting, we compared the survival, height, and biomass of inoculated seedlings with those that received inoculum from stands with extensive beetle-induced tree mortality or no inoculum. Fungal community composition on roots of pine seedlings differed by inoculation treatment, however, inoculation had no effect on survival, height, or biomass of seedlings. We tested whether the best performing seedlings were selective of fungi from the soil fungal community but found no relationship between dissimilarity of soil and root-associated fungal communities and any seedling performance metric. Our results demonstrate soil inoculation was not an effective practice to increase pine seedling establishment in west-central Alberta forests post-mountain pine beetle.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program