Tom Bruns: A burning interest in post-fire fungal communities

  • Date: Aug 8, 2017
  • Time: 03:00 PM - 04:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Tom Bruns from the University of California, Berkeley, USA
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  • Location: MPI Plön
  • Room: Lecture hall
  • Host: Primrose Boynton


Fire is a natural disturbance that occurs with predicable frequency in many ecosystems. Prior research has documented the ways in which plants recolonize after fire, but little work has been focused on the question of how fungi respond in these same settings. This is a particularly important question for ectomycorrhizal fungi that are required by most trees in temperate forest systems, and for fire-specialized saprotrophic fungi that recolonize rapidly and are likely to impact the post-fire soil environment. This talk presents results of work associated with the study of two high severity fires in which the pre-fire soil fungal communities were known. The resident ectomycorrhizal fungal community died along their host trees and no evidence for vegetative survival of ectomycorrhizal was found. However these prior residents were replaced by species that were inactive but present in the soil spore bank, and these species were the dominant fungi that colonized the tree seedlings in these post-fire communities1,2,3.

A small set of saprotrophic pyrophilous (fire loving) fungi occur predictably after severe fires, but little is known about how they response so rapidly or what their roles are in post-fire. These fungi grow rapidly in the post-fire environment and are much more amenable to experimental manipulation than those in the ectomycorrhizal guild. A “pyrocosm” has been developed as a novel experimental system to investigate these fungi. These systems allow control over soil source, heating level, and incubation conditions, and by coupling these manipulations with fungal genomes and metabolomics we plan to dissect the effect of these fungi on post-fire soil environments.

1) Baar, J., Horton, T. R., Kretzer, A., Bruns, T. D. 1999. Mycorrhizal recolonization of Pinusmuricata from resistant propagules after a stand-replacing wildfire. New Phytol. 143:409-418

2) Bruns T. D.,Tan, J., Bidartondo, M. I., Szaro, T. M., Redecker D. 2002 Survival of Suillus pungens and Amanita francheti ectomycorrhizal genets was rare or absent after a stand-replacing wildfire. New Phytol: 155:517-523

3) Glassman SI, Levine CR, DiRocco AM, Battles JJ, Bruns TD. 2015. Ectomycorrhizal fungal spore bank recoverz after a severe forest fire: Some like it hot. ISME (1-12).

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