Geographic and soil nutrient links in the mycorrhizal association of a rare orchid, Cypripedium acaule
Bunch, William Douglas
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Mycorrhizal associations are a requirement for the germination of orchids in nature. Recent studies have shown that the distributions of ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are highly correlated with soil nutrient availability. However, it is unclear how soil nutrient availability influences fungal association in the orchid mycorrhiza. This study was conducted with the goal of determining patterns in orchid mycorrhizal host specialization associated with soil nutrient conditions. Seventeen Cypripedium acaule populations were sampled across central and northern Georgia. Soil samples were collected at the site of each plant and analyzed for carbon, total nitrogen, ammonium, nitrate, and pH. Mycorrhizal fungal hosts of each plant were identified from root samples using DNA analysis of key fungal barcoding genes. C. acaule was found associating with a wide range of fungi, but was most commonly found associating with Tulasnella and Russula species. We observed a strong association between geography, soil nutrient availability and the fungi colonizing C. acaule.