skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Smith, Gabriel Reuben"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract

    Self‐reinforcing differences in fire frequency help closed‐canopy forests, which resist fire, and open woodlands, which naturally burn often, to co‐occur stably at landscape scales. Forest tree seedlings, which could otherwise encroach and overgrow woodlands, are killed by regular fire, yet fire has other effects that may also influence these feedbacks. In particular, many forest trees require symbiotic ectomycorrhizal fungi in order to establish. By restructuring soil fungal communities, fire might affect the availability of symbionts or the potential for symbiont sharing between encroaching trees and woodland vegetation.

    To investigate this possibility, we performed a soil bioassay experiment using inoculum from burned and unburned oak woodlands and Douglas‐fir forests. We examined how fire, ecosystem type, and neighboring heterospecific seedlings affect fungal root community assembly of Douglas‐firs and oaks. We asked whether heterospecific seedlings facilitated fungal colonization of seedling roots in non‐native soil, and if so, whether fire influenced this interaction.

    External fungal colonization of oak roots was more influenced by fire and ecosystem type than by the presence of a Douglas‐fir, and oaks increased the likelihood that Douglas‐fir roots would be colonized by fungi in oak woodland soil. Yet, fire increased colonization of Douglas‐fir in oak soil, diminishing the otherwise crucial role played by oak facilitation. Fire also strengthened the positive effect of Douglas‐firs on oak root‐associated fungal diversity in Douglas‐fir forest soil.

    Prior work shows that fire supports woodland ecosystems by stemming recruitment of encroaching seedlings. Here, we find evidence that it may contrastingly reduce fungal limitation of invasive seedling growth and establishment, otherwise relieved only by facilitation. Future work can investigate how these opposing effects might contribute to the net impact of changes in fire regime on landcover stability.

    Read the freePlain Language Summaryfor this article on the Journal blog.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Decomposition has historically been considered a function of climate and substrate but new research highlights the significant role of specific micro‐organisms and their interactions. In particular, wood decay is better predicted by variation in fungal communities than in climate. Multiple links exist: interspecific competition slows decomposition in more diverse fungal communities, whereas trait variation between different communities also affects process rates. Here, we paired field and laboratory experiments using a dispersal gradient at a forest‐shrubland ecotone to examine how fungi affect wood decomposition across scales. We observed that while fungal communities closer to forests were capable of faster decomposition, wood containing diverse fungal communities decomposed more slowly, independent of location. Dispersal‐driven stochasticity in small‐scale community assembly was nested within large‐scale turnover in the regional species pool, decoupling the two patterns. We thus find multiple distinct links between microbes and ecosystem function that manifest across different spatial scales.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Wildfire affects our planet's biogeochemistry both by burning biomass and by driving changes in ecological communities and landcover. Some plants and ecosystem types are threatened by increasing fire pressure while others respond positively to fire, growing in local and regional abundance when it occurs regularly. However, quantifying total ecosystem response to fire demands consideration of impacts not only on aboveground vegetation, but also on soil microbes like fungi, which influence decomposition and nutrient mineralization. If fire‐resistant soil fungal communities co‐occur with similarly adapted plants, these above‐ and belowground ecosystem components should shift and recover in relative synchrony after burning. If not, fire might decouple ecosystem processes governed by these different communities, affecting total functioning. Here, we use a natural experiment to test whether fire‐dependent ecosystems host unique, fire‐resistant fungal communities. We surveyed burned and unburned areas across two California ecosystem types with differing fire ecologies in the immediate aftermath of a wildfire, finding that the soil fungal communities of fire‐dependent oak woodlands differ from those of neighbouring mixed evergreen forests. We discovered furthermore that the latter are more strongly altered compositionally by fire than the former, suggesting that differences in fungal community structure support divergent community responses to fire across ecosystems. Our results thus indicate that fire‐dependent ecosystems may host fire‐resistant fungal communities.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)