Sapwood-inhabiting mycobiota and Nothofagus tree mortality in Patagonia: diversity patterns according to tree species, plant compartment and health condition

Molina, Lucía; Rajchenberg, Mario; de Errasti, Andrés; Aime, Mary Catherine; Pildain, María Belén
Temperate forests ecosystems are threatened by declines and diseases worldwide. Causes have been investigated during the last decades allowing, in some cases, to relate such deterioration to climate change or pathogens but, in many cases, causes have not yet been elucidated. In recent decades, a phenomenon of grouped mortality, whose etiology remains unknown, has been observed in the two most distributed Nothofagus species of North Patagonian forests. This study aimed to assess sapwood-inhabiting fungal diversity of N. dombeyi and N. pumilio trees in healthy and affected stands in order to determine whether health condition shape these fungal communities, to characterize such patterns and, to seek for the likely pathogens associated with tree damage. Seven sites in Los Alerces National Park (Chubut, Argentina), were sampled seasonally for two years. Eighty-eight fungal taxa were recovered and identified. Spatial heterogeneity across plant compartments was found, involving community composition and structure, with stem harbouring greater diversity than root. It was found that the sapwood in both Nothofagus species was inhabited by different fungal species, in high richness and showing different patterns according to health condition and plant compartment. Health condition was a stronger driver of N. dombeyi sapwood-inhabiting fungal community than it was for N. pumilio; the latter evidenced plant compartment as a stronger driver of such community. Nothofagus pumilio presented higher frequency of decomposition agents in both affected and healthy trees than it was in N. dombeyi, indicating a greater wood deterioration of its stands. More decomposition agents and potential pathogens have been found in symptomatic stands of N. dombeyi than in healthy stands, although their frequency patterns do not allow the inference of conclusions about the primary fungal agent causing tree mortality. Our findings suggest a secondary role of living-wood-inhabiting mycobiota in tree damage processes as an expression of tree stress caused by climatic factors.
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Forest Ecology and Management
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