Wildlife Tech Class of 2021
Irvington High School
Mentor: Andrew Cortese (SUNY ESF)
Project: Influence of Established Overstory Trees on the Mycorrhizal Status of Betula lenta (black birch) Seedlings
Project Status: Completed
Project Description: The benefits of mycorrhizal colonization towards seedling growth are widely known; however, the variables that affect the colonization of seedlings by ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are often overlooked. In this study, we examined the effects of distance from established ECM trees on percent ECM colonization and ECM fungal morphotype richness of Betula lenta (black birch) seedlings located in a second-growth forest. Black birch seedlings were collected in the second-growth forest of the Mianus River Gorge and examined for percent ECM colonization as well as morphotype richness. It is important to note that morphotype measurements were an approximation of the fungal diversity present in each black birch seedling root system. Distance from each sample to the nearest established ECM tree with a DBH greater than 10 cm was measured. We then calculated average percent colonization and morphotype richness for each sample and found a significant, negative relationship between both percent colonization as well as ECM morphotype richness of seedlings and distance from an established ECM tree species. Our results demonstrated that as distance increases, fungal percent colonization and species richness of birch seedlings decreases. This relationship allows more insight into the factors that influence seedling growth and survival in a second-growth forest. Furthermore, both relationships provide a new approach to forest restoration regarding the insurance that seedling survival will be enhanced due to increased fungal colonization and species richness closer to the established tree.