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Individual Highlight

Understanding the Influence of Soil Microbial Communities on Forest Ecosystem Health

Photo of Soil samples are mixed with stabilizing buffer in preparation for DNA/RNA extraction. Ned Klopfenstein, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Soil samples are mixed with stabilizing buffer in preparation for DNA/RNA extraction. Ned Klopfenstein, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Forest root diseases, such as Armillaria root disease, are among the most damaging forest diseases in the world and are extremely difficult to manage. New genetic technologies 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. Forest Service scientists and their partners are working hard to understand the ecological function of soil microbial communities in relation to root disease of forest trees.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Klopfenstein, Ned B.  
Research Location : Moscow, Idaho
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1055

Summary

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

External Partners

 
  • Amy Ross-Davis, Western Forest Conservation Association
  • Jane Stewart, Co-PI, Colorado State University
  • Matt Settles, University of Idaho and University of California Davis
  • Mee-Sook Kim, Kookmin University, Seoul, South Korea