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2111 Dr Clare Robinson King's College, University of London
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Please note: This research Programme is no longer active


 

Title of Research Project
Biodiversity of saprotrophic fungi of grassland in relation to their function

Researchers

PI

Dr Clare H Robinson

Division of Life Sciences,
King's College, University of London,
Franklin-Wilkins Building,
150 Stamford Street,
LONDON SE1 9NN

Tel: 0171 848 4352

clare.robinson@kcl.ac.uk

PI

Dr Juliet C Frankland

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology,
CEH Lancaster
Lancaster Environment Centre
Library Avenue
Bailrigg
Lancaster
LA1 4AP

Tel: 01524 595801

j.frankland@ceh.ac.uk

PI

Dr BW Bainbridge

Division of Life Sciences,
King's College, University of London,
Franklin-Wilkins Building,
150 Stamford Street,
LONDON SE1 9NN

Tel: 0171 848 4462

brian.bainbridge@kcl.ac.uk

STUDENT

Miss Janie Pryce-Miller

King's College, University of London
(as above)

elizabeth.pryce_miller@kcl.ac.uk

STUDENT

Mr Lewis Deacon King's College, University of London
(as above)
lewd@kcl.ac.uk

HSO

Dr Nisha Parekh

CEH Lancaster,
(as above)

n.parekh@ceh.ac.uk

Tech

Mrs Pam Self

CEH Lancaster,
(as above)

p.self@ceh.ac.uk

Abstract
This project would compare the communities and functions in relation to resources of decomposer soil fungi in unimproved and improved grassland plots at Sourhope. First, a general picture of the species diversity and composition of the two communities would be obtained by traditional methods. DNA technology would then be developed for detecting the mycelium of the most abundant five fungi in different types of organic particle separated from within the soils. These species would also be screened for their ability to utilise various carbon substrates and compared with the potential function of occasional and possibly ‘redundant’ species isolated from the same sites. The hypothesis that the latter ‘waiting in the wings’ could fill niches occupied by former ‘dominants’ when perturbations of the systems occur would be examined.

Fieldwork Report
   
Images: (left to right) Sampling site (foreground) S of the Rigg Foot plots, Unimproved Nardus site, Juliet Frankland samples a soil profile assisted by Brian and Margaret Bainbridge and Janie Pryce Miller. (Photographs: Clare Robinson)

The soil mycologists have started! In January CASE student Janie Pryce Miller (King's College London) and her supervisors braved arctic conditions at Sourhope (-15 C, with the wind chill factor) to sample decomposer soil fungi and to test out the methods to be used after D-day. Pits were dug alongside the Rigg Foot experimental area and, for comparison, in a Nardus-dominated site guaranteed by Sourhope staff not to have been 'improved' in living memory. The latter can be seen from the laboratory. Soil profiles were prepared and samples taken aseptically from the litter fermentation, humus and mineral horizons for fungal isolations at Merlewood Research Station. Experiments were then run to determine the most appropriate culturing conditions for determining the species present and their relative abundance. The cultures produced a picture of two typical grassland fungal communities with several readily identified species. There were some differences in species diversity and their occurrence at different depths, but little difference in the number of species on the two sites.

The aim when the lime and nitrogen treated plots are sampled will be to select species that are key as regards abundance and function, and to detect them in situ with gene probes. Rarer species with similar functions will be compared with them in a study of species 'redundancy' and selection processes within the ecosystem. How these fungal communities change over the next three years after the fertilisers have been applied will also be examined.

The investigation of the last two months with data now being analysed should give us a head-start for the real thing.

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