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Increased fungal diversity associated with Aphaenogaster spp. : more evidence for keystone mutualisms

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Bridget Yvette Nelson (Creator)
Institution
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://www.wcu.edu/404.asp
Advisor
Seán O’Connell

Abstract: Food webs in Southern Appalachian forest soils are complex. Because of climate uncertainty, it is imperative that we gain a baseline understanding of the nutrient fluxes associated with each trophic level of the forest ecosystem. Microbial carbon deposition and respiration are responsible for large portions of the soil carbon flux but there is little research detailing microbial interactions with soil macrofauna. This study examines the effect of Aphaenogaster ants on soil microbial diversity. These ants participate in a keystone mutualism with a guild of myrmecochorous plants in Southern Appalachian forests. The data presented here demonstrate that Aphaenogaster interactions extend beyond the guild of herbaceous plants. Fungal diversity increases in ant nest soil relative to bulk soil (p = 0.028). Elucidating the ecology of Aphaenogaster spp. could be a key to understanding nutrition webs in the deciduous forests of eastern North America.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Language: English
Date: 2012
Keywords
Aphaenogaster, Fungi, Mutualisms
Subjects
Soil microbial ecology -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Soil microbial ecology -- North Carolina, Western
Ants -- Ecology -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Ants -- Ecology -- North Carolina, Western
Fungal communities -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Fungal communities -- North Carolina, Western
Mutualism (Biology) -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Mutualism (Biology) -- North Carolina, Western