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Fungal communities of beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees: Heart rot and origins of decay

Gilmartin, Emma Christine 2020. Fungal communities of beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees: Heart rot and origins of decay. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Heart rot and hollowing of tree trunks is an ecologically important phenomenon and is the result of fungal decay of wood. Despite the value of heart rot habitats to thousands of species, globally, little is known about the development of the fungal communities which give rise to them. This thesis explores these aspects in beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees. Destructive and non-destructive methods were used to survey for wood decay fungi in beech trunks. The predominant species identified depended on the survey method employed. In mature trees with no external indicators of heartwood decay, overall incidence of decay was 45%, and a species of Pholiota in the adiposa-aurivella complex was detected most frequently. In recently fallen and felled beech trunks, however, the ascomycete Kretzschmaria deusta appeared most frequently, and was the likely contributor to tree windthrow in most of these cases. Examination of the spatial aspects of fungal communities in trunks permitted observations relating to heartwood patterning and the categorisation of species as principally causing butt or top-rots, and as cavity formers. Metabarcoding of the universal fungal barcode (ITS), and a second barcode (LSU), revealed the distribution and diversity of endophytes, or latent fungi, in functional sapwood of standing trunks. Together, the metabarcoding approach detected a higher diversity of taxa than did isolation of fungi from wood dust samples. Fungal community composition varied between trees at different sampling sites. Overall, several heart rot fungi were detected throughout functional sapwood of trunks, providing evidence that heart rot can, in principle, develop from latent propagules. Interactions between heart rot species other beech decay fungi were compared in wood block pairings and on agar media. Species rankings based on scored outcomes revealed different relative combative ability depending on the medium on which the interactions took place. Of the species examined, Hypholoma fasciculare and Fomitopsis pinicola were the most combative, whilst other heart rot fungi showed no clear trend towards high or low combativeness. Competitive interactions alone were, thus, not sufficient to explain fungal community development in beech trunks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 August 2020
Last Modified: 25 May 2021 01:26

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