Date of Award
Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Due to anthropogenic pressures, by the 1990s longleaf pine forests were at 3% its peak area. Restoration is difficult as vegetation communities constitute a mosaic across the longleaf range. Hence, vegetation description is important wherever longleaf pine communities exist. Vegetation strongly associates with specific soil fungi operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and description of longleaf pine ecosystems are incomplete without description of microbial taxa.
My goals were to begin describing soil fungal communities of the longleaf pine at Sheffield Wildlife Management Area (SWMA) and describe changes to the fungal community after the removal of dominant plants in a longleaf savanna. I hypothesized the closed-forest would differ in fungal community composition compared to the savanna restoration area and removal of the dominant plant understory species will result in changes to the relative abundance of fungi communities.
I used previous fungi and tree community data, determined ground-cover species dominance, and set up six randomized blocks within the savanna at SWMA. I extracted DNA from soil samples and a third-party lab used ITS gene sequencing to identify fungal taxa. Fungi relative abundance was compared using Kruskal-Wallis tests. Ordinal regression, analysis of variance between ranks, and Tukey HSD post hoc compared fungal taxa of interest.
This work indicates fungal communities are resilient and fungi representing the family Russulaceae play a large role in these assemblages. Outside of findings that support a difference in closed-forested areas versus savanna areas with respect to unclassified fungal families, I was unable to reject the null for my other hypotheses.