Abstract Detail



Ecology

O'Neill, Erin [1], Brody, Alison [1].

The Effects of Ericoid Mycorrhizal Fungi on Reproductive Traits of Vaccinium corymbosum.

     Mycorrhizal fungi are among the world’s oldest and most important mutualisms, dating back more than 400 million years and forming symbiotic relationships with 90% of extant land plants.  In this symbiosis, mycorrhizal fungi receive photosynthetic carbon in exchange for providing resources such as water and nutrients to their host plants.  Ericoid mycorrhizae (ericoids or ErMF) involve a relatively specialized group of fungi that form symbioses with plants in the Ericaceae.  In this work, we are asking whether, given mycorrhizal fungi can increase the health of plants, the plants can change resource allocation to benefit the development of their reproductive organs with increased input from the ericoid mycorrhizal relationship.         
     Like many woody plant species, Vaccinium. corymbosum preforms buds in the fall.  If ericoids enhance resources, then inoculation with ErMF may change the number or size of V. corymbosum buds and flowers and/or affect floral traits that are important to pollinators.   We will test two hypotheses: 1) Inoculation with ericoid mycorrhizal fungi alters plant investment in buds and inflorescences; and 2) the importance of ericoid mycorrhizal fungi to floral traits important to pollinators will depend on the pollinator abundance and diversity.   To test these hypotheses, we inoculated 360, four-year old, V. corymbosum plants in the spring of 2018 and randomly assigned them to one of four treatments: 1) commercial inoculum 2) local soil 3) commercial inoculum and local soil and 4) a control group with no inoculum.  Plants were then grown and overwintered in a common garden.  Plants did not differ in ericoid colonization prior to inoculation.  Inoculation with ericoids increased colonization overall by ca.11%; there was no significant interaction between inoculation treatment and time.      
     During the upcoming field season, inflorescences, buds, floral traits including flower number, size, and the production of nectar will be measured.  We will transport plants to blueberry farms known to differ in pollinator abundance and conduct pollinator observations throughout the flowering season.  In addition, we will conduct hand pollination experiments to examine the degree of pollen limitation at each of these farms.  Our results will elucidate the importance of ericoids for the development of reproductive traits and subsequent interactions with pollinators.  It will also help us further understand the ways in which belowground interactions can drive aboveground interactions.


1 - University Of Vermont, Marsh Life Science Bldg, Burlington, VT, 5405, United States

Keywords:
mycorrhizal fungi
Pollination
symbiosis
floral traits
ecology.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: 0005
Abstract ID:615
Candidate for Awards:Ecological Section Best Graduate Student Paper


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