Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y092173

    Integration of information on ectomycorrhizal fungal species for use as indicators of sustainable forestry in British Columbia
Project lead: Trofymow, J.A. (Tony) (Canadian Forest Service)
Contributing Authors: Trofymow, J.A. (Tony); Thomson, A.; Outerbridge, Renata A.; Durall, Daniel M.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Ectomycorrhiza (EM) are a symbiosis of fungi and tree roots and play an essential role in forests affecting root function, nutrient uptake, and tree growth. EM fungi can serve as excellent fine-filter indicators of biodiversity and soil ecosystem response to forest practices for several reasons: sites typically contain from 20-60 EM types giving robust results for comparison, sampling logistics are minimized since roots can be sampled throughout the year, and since EM fungi are symbiotic with the host, they have high site fidelity and integrate changes affecting the tree and soil.

Comparison of studies on EM fungal diversity among sites is hampered by limitations in the ability to identify the EM fungal species. Studies typically use a combination of morphological descriptions and molecular (DNA - RFLP or sequencing) data to characterize the EM fungal community. In the late 1990’s the BC Ectomycorrhizal Research Network (BCERN ) jointly developed A Manual of Concise Description of North American Ectomycorrhizae (CDNAE, see BCERN site ) on morphological characterization and molecular techniques and published detailed descriptions for 23 EM types, adding to the ~343 descriptions available from manuals by Agerer et al (1987-2000) and Ingleby et al (1993). BCERN also supported development of a searchable on-line Database for Descriptions of Ectomycorrhizae (DDE) (Goodman et al 2000), which included entries of 343 published descriptions. It was envisioned that DDE would also house data on and allow for the comparison among sites of EM types for which only partial morphotypic or molecular data was available. Until March 2006, DDE was available on CFS or FORREX web sites, however server changes and security concerns about the legacy program resulted in both agencies removing DDE and thus is unavailable to biologists conducting EM studies in BC.

Through recent FSP funding, work has continued to examine the diversity of EM fungal types found on coastal and interior forests and impacts of forestry practices. These studies have characterized EM types using a combination of morphological and molecular techniques. As part of FSP project Y066183 on the south coast, ~80 photo-profiles have been prepared including descriptions of key morphological features, images of gross and fine anatomy, but with no molecular data. As part of FSP project Y073064 in S. interior ~40 EM types have been recognized by a combination of key morphological features, limited images, and molecular data. FSP Y051190 examined EM types in north island coastal western hemlock, almost exclusively using molecular techniques ( Studies on the north coast by Kranabetter resulted in preparation of 42 photo-profiles of some of the main EM types (

In this proposal we would extend and integrate information, from several research teams, on EM fungal types found in BC through DNA analysis of partially and fully described isolates of EM types and complete preparation of photo profiles for EM types for which DNA analysis has been completed and sufficient morphological data exists. DNA analysis will involve DNA extraction, amplification of fungal DNA, DNA purification, quantification and sequencing. DNA sequence data will be posted to GenBank and accession number included in the photo profile. For types where conclusive data is available to identify the fungal species, we would also prepare detailed descriptions (about 20) for publication in CDNAE.

Photo profiles of common format would contain an identifier label, fungal species, host species, collection location habitat, text with key morphological and anatomical features, images, references, and GenBank accession number. These photoprofiles would be posted to a new page on the BCERN web site. An associated EM Descriptor file would contain a paired list of feature names and their values (following CDNAE checklist conventions). EM Descriptor files would also be prepared for all 343 species currently in DDE. Such files could be searched using online tools such as GOOGLE or downloaded for further search using GOOGLE Desktop. A program, based on the CDNAE checklist, would be written to help prepare the EM Descriptor files. Such an approach would avoid problems with maintaining database software on external servers as hardware and software design standards change.

A workshop in the second year, 2008, would familiarize EM researchers in BC with the BCERN web site and contents, discuss and develop ways to use this and other data to determine how well EM fungi serve as diversity indicators in different regions, and how to develop thresholds and response curves for this taxon for use in monitoring forest practices.

Agerer, R. (Editor) 1987-1995. Colour atlas of ectomycorrhizae. Einhorn-Verlag Eduard Dietenberger GmbH Schwäbisch Gmünd, Munich
Goodman, D.M., Trofymow, J.A., and Thomson, A.J. 2000. Developing an Online Database of Descriptions of Ectomycorrhizae. B.C. J. Ecosystems Management. 1(1).
Ingleby, K., Mason, P.A., Last, F.T., and Fleming, L.V. 1990. Identification of ectomycorrhizas, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (ITE) research publication no. 5. (112 pp.) HMSO, London
Related projects:  FSP_Y081173


Executive summary (91Kb)
Workshop Report (0.2Mb)
Technical Report (0.8Mb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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