UBC Research Data

Beyond seedlings: ectomycorrhizal fungal networks and growth of mature Pseudotsuga menziesii Birch, Joseph D.; Simard, Suzanne; Beiler, Kevin; Karst, Justine



1. Mycorrhizal networks are conduits for the transfer of resources between hosts. While ectomycorrhizal networks (EMN) are known to influence seedlings, their effect on adult tree growth remains unknown and may have important implications for forest responses to future climates.

2. We used annual basal area increment of trees and previously described Rhizopogon vesiculosus and Rhizopogon vinicolor EMNs to examine an association between the number of connections between trees through an EMN and the growth of adult interior Douglas-fir. We compared this relationship for the year the networks were mapped, in 2008, with eight years previous and eight years afterward. We also compared the variation in standardized growth (2000–2016) to examine the association between growth variability and EMN variables.

3. Greater growth was positively associated with 1) the number of connections to other trees via a Rhizopogon vinicolor EMN, and 2) the number of genets of Rhizopogon vesiculosis by which a tree was colonized. Variation of growth (2000–2016) was negatively associated with increasing number of connections to other trees via Rhizopogon vinicolor. Synthesis. These findings, for the first time, indicate that EMNs may positively influence the growth of adult trees. The difference in tree growth response between the sister fungal species highlights a novel avenue to identify interspecific and intraspecific differences between species occurring at different depths in the soil. Our study has important implications when considering the role of EMNs in influencing forest health and mitigating stress from environmental conditions.

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Data is split for the 10 x 10 plots used for the analysis and sampled trees that were excluded from the analysis. A duplicate README file is included within the Excel datasheet.  

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