Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in Plant Sciences Department
Research project:
Diversity and demographic effects of seed-infecting fungi in tropical forests

Fungal pathogens are increasingly recognized as an important source of adult-plant and seedling mortality in tropical forests, influencing tree demography, distributions, and diversity. However, very little is known regarding the cryptic effects of tropical seed-infecting fungi, including endophytes, pathogens, and saprotrophs that decay seed tissues in soil. Seed-infecting fungi are likely to be especially important for tree species depending upon seed survival in soil (seed banks) for successful recruitment, including pioneer species - the trees that rapidly exploit treefall gaps and comprise the first steps in tropical forest succession. The Arnold lab is working in collaboration with Dr. Jim Dalling ( University of Illinois ) and Rachel Gallery (Ph.D. student) to characterize seed-infecting fungi associated with focal seed-bank-dependent tropical trees ( Cecropia spp.) in three tropical forests ( Costa Rica , Panama , Ecuador ). Our work synthesizes field studies of seed demography with molecular analysis of fungal communities, providing a first glimpse at the diversity, spatial structure, and ecological roles of these little-known fungal assemblages.

For more information: Dr. Betsy Arnold, arnold@ag.arizona.edu
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