Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Research article
12 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 12 Jun 2012

Contributions of ectomycorrhizal fungal mats to forest soil respiration

C. L. Phillips, L. A. Kluber, J. P. Martin, B. A. Caldwell, and B. J. Bond

Abstract. Distinct aggregations of fungal hyphae and rhizomorphs, or "mats", formed by some genera of ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi are common features of soils in coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. We measured in situ respiration rates of Piloderma mats and neighboring non-mat soils in an old-growth Douglas-fir forest in western Oregon to investigate whether there was higher respiration from mats, and to estimate mat contributions to total soil respiration. We found that areas where Piloderma mats colonized the organic horizon often had higher soil surface flux than non-mats, with the relative increase in respiration averaging 16% across two growing seasons. Both soil physical factors and biochemistry were related to the higher surface flux of mat soils. When soil moisture was high, soil CO2 production was concentrated into near-surface soil horizons where mats tend to colonize, resulting in greater apparent differences in respiration between mat and non-mat soils. Respiration rates were also correlated with the activity of chitin-degrading soil enzymes. This finding supports the notion that the abundance of fungal biomass in EcM mats is an important driver of C and N cycling. We found Piloderma mats present across 57% of the exposed soil, and use this value to estimate a respiratory contribution from mats at the stand-scale of about 9% of total soil respiration. The activity of EcM mats, which includes both EcM fungi and microbial associates, appeared to constitute a substantial portion of total soil respiration in this old-growth Douglas-fir forest.

Final-revised paper