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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Linking macroecology and traits to predict mycorrhizal fungal dispersal
  • Principal investigator: Bala Chaudhary (bala.chaudhary@dartmouth.edu)
  • Institution: Dartmouth College
  • Primary contact: Paul Metzler (bala.chaudhary@depaul.edu)
  • Team members: Paul Metzler
  • Abstract:

    For nearly 100 years, the "everything is everywhere" hypothesis has dominated microbial ecology, suggesting that microbial dispersal is unlimited and community assembly mechanisms are primarily deterministic. However, certain fungi vary with respect to traits that could impact their long-distance dispersal capabilities. Coupling knowledge of traits with physical laws that govern movement could provide a powerful framework to predict dispersal, a key component of biogeography. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form no aboveground structures, and reproduce via asexual spores with substantially varying traits (e.g. size, surface ornamentation) that are likely to impact long-distance dispersal. The mechanisms and extent of AM fungal dispersal are poorly understood, yet, to manage AM fungal communities for improved symbiotic functioning, taxon-specific information regarding dispersal capabilities is required. This study combines trait-based ecology and macroecology to study aerial dispersal of AM fungi. We will examine community structure and spore traits of aerial AM fungi at core terrestrial NEON sites to identify eco-climatic properties that predict aerial dispersal. This project will illuminate the thus far speculative role of dispersal in driving continent-scale patterns in microbial biogeography.