A survey of mycorrhizal fungi on discontinuous permafrost habitats in the Taiga Plains of the Northwest Territories

Project keywords:

Vegetation, mycorrhiza, taiga plains, permafrost

Name of project lead: Stevens, Baltzer

Project team/partners:

Brendan Moore, Undergraduate Researcher, Wilfrid Laurier University
Jennifer Baltzer, Supervisor, Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University jbaltzer@wlu.ca
Kevin Stevens, Co-Supervisor, Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University, kestevens@wlu.ca

Status: Completed

Location:
Scotty Creek (61o 18’N; 121o, 18’W)

Year and month project started: July 2012

Anticipated completion year of project? April 2013

Executive year of project (example, year 1 or 2 or 3…)

Brief project description:

The objectives of this study were to 1) Determine the mycorrhizal status of the predominant vegetation of permafrost plateaus, bogs and fens in a subarctic peatland; and 2) Characterize patterns of mycorrhizal colonization among habitats. When plant species were found to occur along a clearly identifiable environmental gradient, samples were obtained from contrasting sites along the gradient. Approximately five replicate root samples were obtained from 30 plant species. Samples were stored in ethanol and transported to WLU for assessment. A subsample of roots were cleared, stained and viewed under 200x magnification to quantify mycorrhizal structures. Quantification followed established protocols. The objectives of the project were achieved.

Significance of the results (rationale): / project linkages

Many plants form mutualistic symbioses with soil fungi. In this association the plant provides carbohydrates to the fungus while the fungus provides access to otherwise inaccessible soil nutrients. The effect on plant performance can ultimately impact plant community structure and ecosystem services. This study is one of the few that have assessed the mycorrhizal status of taiga plains vegetation and examine the effects of water availability on this relationship. Knowing the prevalence of mycorrhizal associations in Taiga Plain vegetation is a first step towards understanding the role of mycorrhiza in structuring Taiga plains plant communities and the effects of climate change on this association. This project ties in with the goals of the Biodiversity monitoring programme led by Suzanne Carrière at the ENR. They are particularly interested in this project since they have little to no information about mycorrhizal symbionts for the NWT.

Key deliverables and reporting: Link to needs of NWT

One manuscript will be submitted for publication.

Engagement, training and capacity building

This project employed and trained one undergraduate student at WLU. The student spent the summer at Scotty Creek collecting samples and participating in establishing long-term vegetation plots. This project ties in with the goals of the Biodiversity monitoring programme led by Suzanne Carrière at the ENR. ENR biologists are particularly interested in this project since they have little to no information about mycorrhizal symbionts for the NWT.

Project progress. Please complete sections 1 or 2. Section 1: Check all boxes that apply, provide a numbered link to an explanation in section 2.

This study is one of the few that have assessed the mycorrhizal status of taiga plains vegetation and examined the effects of water availability on this relationship. This significance of mycorrhizal associations in the Taiga Plains if poorly understood. This project has provided the information necessary to support future investigations into the importance and factors that impact mycorrhizal associations in the Taiga Plains. Furthermore, preliminary data suggests a reduction in the prevalence of mycorrhizae, at least in the short term, associated with climate warming induced permafrost thaw.

Links to WSIPlan and NWT Science Agenda 

Key project tasks for next year (work plan pieces – research)

This stage of the research is complete

Key project tasks for next year (work plan pieces – engagement, training and capacity building)

 Project is complete

Published Papers