In many forest ecosystems, fine root litter comprises a large pool of organic carbon and nutrients. In temperate climates ectomycorrhizal fungi colonize the roots of many forest plant species. If ectomycorrhizal colonization influenced root decomposition, it could significantly influence carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. Fungal tissues and fine roots may decompose at different rates and, therefore, ectomycorrhizal colonization may either hasten or retard root decomposition. Unfortunately, no comparisons of the decomposition of roots and ectomycorrhizal fungi have yet been made. Therefore, we compared decomposition of Pinus resinosa fine roots and ectomycorrhizal fungi from a Pinus resinosa plantation. We also compared the decomposition rates of nonmycorrhizal Pinus resinosa fine roots with roots colonized by nine species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. We found that the several tested isolates of ectomycorrhizal fungi decomposed far more rapidly than the fine roots and that ectomycorrhizal colonization either had no significant effect on root decomposition or significantly increased root decomposition depending on the isolate of fungus. We conclude that the composition of an ectomycorrhizal fungal community may affect carbon and nutrient cycling through its influence on root decomposition.
- Ectomycorrhizal fungal community structure
- Ectomycorrhizal fungi
- Fine root decomposition
- Pinus resinosa
- Soil carbon