Short-term effect of historical mega-fire on soil fungal communities

How did the largest wildfire in Spain’s history reshape the landscape of fungal communities? Research unravels the intricate dynamics of mycological guilds in the aftermath of a mega-fire, revealing proliferations and ecological turnovers which take place at the beginning of a period of successional recovery within a Mediterranean forest ecosystem.

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Photo: Dante Bertocci

The findings of the research allow us to peer further into the world of fungi to understand the complex interactions which occur in the months following a wildfire of unparalleled proportions. This information allows us to understand the resilience and adaptability of different fungal species to such disturbances. The research also enables us to potentially predict changes in forest ecosystems after similar events in the future.

Photo: Dante Bertocci

The results pave new avenues for research into the ecological roles of different fungal species and guilds in post-fire forest recovery. Future studies could investigate the long-term impacts of these shifts on forest ecosystems and examine the potential for using certain fungal species in forest management and restoration efforts. For example, some of the pioneer species which colonize in the aftermath are only observed to proliferate immediately after a fire event. Such species could hold the key to forest recovery from such devastating natural and anthropogenic disasters.

The study’s findings could inform forest management practices by highlighting the importance of considering fungal communities in post-fire recovery efforts. Future strategies could be developed to support the recovery of economically, socially, and environmentally beneficial ectomycorrhizal communities, such as edible fungi. This could ultimately contribute to more effective and sustainable forest management and restoration strategies in the aftermath of wildfires.

Photo: Dante Bertocci

The study reveals that ectomycorrhizal communities were greatly and negatively affected, predominantly pertaining to the Basidiomycota phylum. Contrary to this first guild, saprophytic species, mainly pertinent to the Ascomycota phylum, saw exponential growth in the burned plots. This indicates a significant shift in the fungal community structure post-fire. The decline of Basidiomycota and associated ECM fungi is potentially due to plant host death or direct heat-induced mortality, or a combination of these factors. The proliferation of Ascomycota and associated saprotrophs instead, is potentially due to a lack of competition from other fungal species or an ideal mix of nutrients left behind from the carbonization. As previously mentioned, pioneering fungi, namely pyrophilous fungi begin appearing within a matter of days. The next steps would involve a longitudinal study to monitor the successional reprisal of the fungal community equilibrium from before the mega-fire event, such as understanding the role of pyrophilous fungi in the recovery of the forest health, the recovery of ectomycorrhizal communities over time, and the long-term effects of an increased saprophytic population. This study underscores the need for further investigation into the resilience of fungal communities in the face of such disasters and the development of strategies to aid in the recovery of crucial ectomycorrhizal communities. This could potentially lead to new insights into ecosystem recovery and resilience post-disaster.

Source: Dante Bertocci
SOURCEDante Bertocci
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Dante Bertocci
Dante is an Italian-American born in Cortona, Tuscany. Avid biophiliac, with a strong passion for forests, ecological restoration, bioeconomy, and mycology. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the College of Environment+Design at the University of Georgia (USA), and is now obtaining his master’s in Natural Resource Management from the University of Valladolid in Spain.