The effects of forest management practices on soil fungal communities in eucalypt forests
Soil fungi perform many ecologically important functions such as decomposition of litter, nutrient and carbon cycling and the formation of symbiotic associations with plants. Given the key roles that fungi play in forest sustainability, it is vital to understand how forest management practices such as fertilization, irrigation, management to promote forest regeneration and establishment of monoculture and mixed tree species plantations affect soil fungal community structure and functioning. While soil fungal diversity and community structure have been shown to be affected by forest management practices in some forest types, limited information is available in relation to Australian eucalypt forests. The objective of this project is to investigate the effects of a range of forest management practices on soil fungal community structure and functioning in natural and plantation eucalypt forests. Traditional culturing methods for analysis of fungal communities are known to provide only a selective view of community diversity, thus this projects will employ molecular techniques to investigate and compare fungal community structure under different management treatments. Nucleic acids (DNA for total fungal community analysis and RNA for active fungal community analysis) will be extracted directly from soil and PCR amplification of fungal DNA will be performed using fungal-specific primers. Terminal restriction length polymorphism (T-RFLP) will be used to assess community diversity and multivariate statistical approaches will be used to compare communities from different treatments. Massively parallel sequencing and stable isotope probing (SIP) will also be employed to further investigate diversity and functioning of the fungal communities. The results generated in this project will be used to inform future decisions for sustainable management of eucalypt forests.
Research Project Supervisors
Professor John Cairney, Professor Ian Anderson, Dr Susan Chambers, Dr Jeff Powell