The ecology and population biology of two litter decomposing basidiomycetes

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Virginia Tech

Four 286m2 plots on alternate sides of the spur ridges on Brush Mt. were established and their plant communities characterized. Agaric and Bolete basidiomycetes were sampled for two years. Fifty species were recorded on the plots. Phenologically, decomposer species were highly dependent upon rainfall events, whereas mycorrhizal species were more seasonal. Two species emerged as dominant litter decomposers. Marasmiellus praeacutus (Ellis) Halling is dominant on southwest facing slopes and occurs on a wide variety of coniferous and hardwood detritus. Collybia subnuda (Ellis ex. Peck) Gilliam is dominant on northeast facing slopes, and occurs on hardwood leaves and small woody detritus. The population structure of both of these species was investigated using tests of somatic incompatibility. Genets of both species are able to persist for more than one year. The observed minimum population density is 0.071 - 0.121 genets/m² for M. praeacutus and 0.039 - 0.093 genets/m² for g. subnuda. Mating tests indicate that M. praeacutus is heterothallic and tetrapolar, and that C. subnuda is heterothallic and bipolar. Preliminary crosses between monokaryotic tester sets indicate a surprisingly low number of mating alleles in both species. Decomposition studies suggest that while the restricted distribution of ~. subnuda to the northeast slopes may be affected by substrate specificity, the restriction of M. praeacutus to the southwest slopes is due to other factors.