MYCOSYSTEMS: Evaluation of fungal diversity and its influence in generating forest ecosystem services
Fungi represent one of the most diverse kingdoms on our planet and are key to the maintenance of forest ecosystems. The ecological functions of fungal communities include decomposition and nutrient cycling, symbiosis with living plants, and pathogenism with plants and animals. Complementing these important fuctions, fungi are increasingly recognized for their contribution to economic, social and cultural values. With the widespread increase in societal expectations for ecosystem services, new formulas are needed for forest management that maximize the value of forest fungi. However, the growing recognition and interest for the fungi in forest ecosystems has not been accompanied by a parallel increase in the scientific knowledge and techniques to study fungal populations, temporal dynamics or the influence of fungal diversity on the provision of different forest ecosystem services.
The first goal of this project is to determine the factors which affect fungal diversity in forest ecosystems, providing a scientific foundation to develop tools directed at sustainable management that maximize ecosystem services associated with fungal diversity. To this end we will evaluate the relationship between the diversity of fungal sporocarps, mycorrhizae, mycelia and spores in different forest ecosystems by developing and optimizing different protocols to process soil samples for the extraction of fungal DNA and for further characterization with advanced metagenomic methods.