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Elmhurst College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are obligate biotrophs that form symbiotic relationships with 80% of vascular plants around the world. Because of their beneficial relationship with plants in almost all terrestrial ecosystems, the implication of utilizing AM fungi in ecological restorations is immense. The following investigations seek to increase knowledge of the community ecology of AM fungi in order to enhance the potential for use of AM in ecological restoration. The first investigation replicated a novel method of AM visualization in plant roots, utilizing ink and vinegar as less destructive staining agents, to determine whether molecular studies could be feasibly performed on these roots in light of DNA degradation from the staining process. Plant DNA amplification from stained roots was attempted in a polymerase chain reaction, and a 31.3% success rate was observed. Spectrophotometer results indicated that the extracted quantity of DNA from stained plant roots was on average 2.5 times less than unstained roots and may indicate that even with the utilization of less caustic chemicals in the staining process, DNA degradation may still be occurring. It was proposed that more research should be undertaken to find ways to maximize the quantity of DNA extracted from stained roots and to further mitigate degradation. The second study investigated whether an observed climatic gradient influenced AM fungal community composition. Between February and April 2013, a climatic gradient was observed in which large pulses of rainfall were followed by decreasing rainfall leading to a dry spell. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis was utilized to “barcode” communities with representative taxonomic units from two different sampling dates. It was determined that diversity assessed with the Simpson index was significantly greater in February root fragments (p<0.1), as well as principal coordinate analysis indicated that variability in fungal communities was considerably described by sampling dates. These results suggest possible influence of a climatic gradient on AM fungal community shifts.


Climate | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Natural Resources and Conservation | Other Environmental Sciences | Sustainability


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