UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Advancing fungal life-history classification through the comparison of sexual reproductive trait expression among ectomycorrhizal, pathogenic, and saprotrophic guilds Campbell, Mackenzie


Fungi are major contributors to many important ecological processes, including decomposition, plant nutrient acquisition via root mutualisms, and plant population regulation via parasitism. Despite their importance, many gaps in knowledge still exist surrounding fungal life-history strategies and community dynamics. Thus, many have proposed applying a more trait-based approach to fungal ecology. Along with simply identifying species and measuring community diversity, we can use trait data to better elucidate community functioning and better predict community resiliency to environmental change. This approach has been used extensively in plant ecology, which has led to a number of important discoveries in plant form and function. This study aims to advance the use of trait data in fungal ecology. To accomplish this, I compiled sexual reproductive trait data from 626 fungal species. I included 8 traits in my dataset: Fruiting body diameter, fruiting body height, fruiting body shape, spore size, spore pigmentation, spore ornamentation, spore shape, and basidium or ascus size. I compared these traits among 3 major functional guilds: Ectomycorrhizal, plant pathogenic, and saprotrophic. Given these traits are involved in dispersal, and the 3 guilds generally occupy different niches, differences in reproductive expression may influence succession among the guilds in response to environmental change. In order to infer phylogenetic conservation of these traits, I also compared species at the taxonomic order level. I found that ectomycorrhizal species tended to invest more biomass into reproductive structures than pathogens or saprotrophs. They tended to have larger fruiting bodies, spores, and basidia or asci. I argue that this may be a result of their mutualistic relationship with plants, which provides a more stable nutrient supply. In contrast, pathogens and saprotrophs must disperse between ephemeral resource patches. Therefore, smaller and lighter spores may better facilitate wind dispersal. I also found significant differences between taxonomic orders, suggesting a degree of phylogenetic conservation. Orders with the most ectomycorrhizal representation tended to invest the most biomass into reproduction. However, well-resolved phylogenies are needed to test phylogenetic conservation at the genus or species level.

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