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Fire Ecology, 2017
Volume 13, Issue 2

Fire Reduces Fungal Species Richness and In Situ Mycorrhizal Colonization: A Meta-Analysis
Authors: Nicholas C. Dove and Stephen C. Hart
Pages: 37-65
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.130237746

Soil fungal communities perform many functions that help plants meet their nutritional demands.  However, overall trends for fungal response to fire, which can be especially critical in a post-fire context, have been difficult to elucidate.  We used meta-analytical techniques to investigate fungal response to fire across studies, ecosystems, and fire types.  Change in fungal species richness and mycorrhizal colonization were used as the effect size metrics in random effects models.  When different types of methods for assessing fungal species richness and mycorrhizal colonization were considered together, there was an average reduction of 28 % in fungal species richness post fire, but no significant response in mycorrhizal colonization.  In contrast, there was a 41 % reduction in fungal species richness post fire when assessed by sporocarp surveys, but fungal species richness was not significantly affected when assessed by molecular methods. Measured in situ, fire reduced mycorrhizal colonization by 21 %, yet no significant response occurred when assessed by ex situ bioassays.  These findings suggest that the putative magnitude of fire effects on soil fungal communities may be dependent on the approach and assessment method used.  Furthermore, biome, but not fire type (i.e., wildfire versus prescribed fire) was a significant moderator of our categorical models, suggesting that biome might be a more useful predictor of fungal species richness response to fire than fire type.  Reductions in fungal species richness and in situ mycorrhizal colonization post fire declined logarithmically and approached zero (i.e., no effect) at 22 and 11 years, respectively.  We concluded that fire reduces fungal species richness and in situ mycorrhizal colonization, but if conditions allow communities to recover (e.g., without subsequent disturbance, favorable growing conditions), soil fungi are resilient on decadal time scales; the resiliency of soil fungi likely contributes to the overall rapid ecosystem recovery following fire.

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