Functional convergence in the decomposition of fungal necromass in soil and wood

François Maillard, Jonathan Schilling, Erin Andrews, Kathryn M. Schreiner, Peter Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Understanding the post-senescent fate of fungal mycelium is critical to accurately quantifying forest carbon and nutrient cycling, but how this organic matter source decomposes in wood remains poorly studied. In this study, we compared the decomposition of dead fungal biomass (a.k.a. necromass) of two species, Mortierella elongata and Meliniomyces bicolor, in paired wood and soil plots in a boreal forest in northern Minnesota, USA. Mass loss was quantified at four time points over an 8-week incubation and the richness and composition of the fungal communities colonizing fungal necromass were characterized using high-throughput sequencing. We found that the structure of fungal decomposer communities in wood and soil differed, but, in both habitats, there was relatively rapid decay (∼30% remaining after 56 days). Mass loss was significantly faster in soil and for high-quality (i.e. high nitrogen and low melanin) fungal necromass. In both habitats, there was a clear trajectory of early colonization by opportunistic fungal taxa followed by colonization of fungi with greater enzymatic capacities to degrade more recalcitrant compounds, including white-rot and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Collectively, our results indicate that patterns emerging regarding substrate quality effects on fungal necromass decomposition in soil and leaf litter can be largely extended to fungal necromass decomposition in wood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfiz209
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support for this research was provided by the University of Minnesota (College of Biological Sciences), the University of Minnesota Duluth (Swenson College of Science and Engineering) and the National Science Foundation (Award No. 1754616 to JS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 FEMS.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • boreal forest
  • decomposition
  • fungi
  • mycelial turnover
  • soil
  • wood

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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