Understanding the Influence of Soil Microbial Communities on Forest Ecosystem Health
Forest root diseases, such as Armillaria root disease, are among the most damaging forest diseases in the world and are extremely difficult to manage, because impacts are dependent on long-term, complex ecological interactions among the pathogens, host trees, soil microbial communities, and environmental factors. New genetic technologies (metagenomics and metatranscriptomics) are being used to identify tens of thousands of soil microbes and their interactions with root pathogens and other environmental factors to develop novel disease management approaches. If successful, these approaches could develop management practices that manipulate the natural microbial communities in forest soils in a manner that suppresses root disease. A pilot study currently underway is using metagenomic and metatranscriptomics tools to better understand microbial communities and functions in forest soil and determine influencing environmental factors (e.g., soil properties, temperature, moisture, stand history, host species, understory vegetation, etc.) associated with soil properties and microbial communities in relation to Armillaria root disease and other ecological processes. Metagenomic approaches can be successfully applied to identify a multitude of fungal and bacterial taxa within microbial communities in forest soils. Environmental factors were shown to influence microbial species richness and diversity in forest soils, but environmental interactions among the soil microbial communities appear to be complex. Continued studies are necessary to determine ecological function of soil microbial communities in relation to root disease of forest trees.
Forest Service Partners