Belowground Fungal Community Change Associated with Ecosystem Development

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Virginia Tech


Numerous studies have looked at biotic succession at the aboveground level; however, there are no studies describing fungal community change associated with long-term ecosystem development. To understand ecosystem development, the organisms responsible for shaping and driving these systems and their relationships with the vegetation and soil factors, it is critical to provide insight into aboveground and belowground linkages to ultimately include this new information into ecosystem theory. I hypothesized that fungal communities would change with pedogenesis, that these changes would correlate with vegetation community change, and that they should show change of composition and diversity as the seasons change. Chapter 1 discusses the main topics related to this dissertation. Chapter 2 includes a publication draft that describes a study of sand-dune soil samples from northern Michigan that were analyzed to pinpoint the structural change in the fungal community during the development of the ecosystem. The samples were analyzed by pyrosequencing the soil DNA, targeting the internal transcribed spacer region. Chapter 3 contains a coauthored published paper that describes plant invasion of fields in Virginia to determine how they impact soil bacterial and fungal communities. The bacterial and fungal communities that were invaded by 3 different plant species exhibited similar changes, regardless of plant species, suggesting that some functional traits of invasives may have similar impacts on belowground communities. Chapter 4 remarks the conclusions of this research.



Soil fungal community, Wilderness Park Chronosequence, Ecosystem Development, Season, ITS, Pyrosequencing, Microbial Community Structure, Plant Invasions