Home Ectomycorrhiza Succession Project During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published by Cori VanGalder on

Home Ectomycorrhiza Succession Project During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Submitted by: Slavomír Adamčík1, Benjamin Avis2, Miroslav Caboň1, Munazza Kiran1,3, Barbora Zámocká1

1Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Metagenomics, Institute of Botany, Plant Science and Biodiversity Centre, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 23 Bratislava, Slovakia

2Department of Biology, Indiana University Northwest, 3400 Broadway, Gary, IN 46408

3Department of Botany, University of Punjab, Quaide Azam campus, Lahore 54590, Pakistan

Before the pandemic, we had two visiting researchers, Ben Avis and Munazza Kiran, and one PhD student, Barbora Zámocká, at the Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Metagenomics (MEM) of the Plant Science and Biodiversity Centre, Slovak Academy of Sciences, (Bratislava, Slovakia). The supervisor and scientific host is Slavomír Adamčík, and the assistant and curator of MEM Lab is Miroslav Caboň.

Benjamin Avis, associated with Indiana University Northwest (IN, USA), started his stay at the beginning of February 2020 and was supposed to stay until the end of March 2020. His mission was training in morphology standards proposed at our lab and the object of his study was North American Foetid Russulas and their systematics. He was enjoying weekends by visiting historic cities in the area, as well as Vienna and Budapest. On Friday March 13 we discussed his plans to visit Prague during the next weekend beginning on March 20. I tried to discourage him from going, because of the pandemic outbreak, but Ben argued that the situation was safe. However, on Monday March 16 we learned of the call by President Trump for all US citizens to come home, and Ben bought a new air ticket and travelled back home early in the morning on March 16. We think his mission was close to finished and we are communicating with him and his US colleague Peter Avis in order to complete the study and discuss the future use of his skills and accomplishments.

Munazza Kiran from the University of Punjab (Lahore, Pakistan) started her stay supported by the National Scholarship Programme of the Slovak Republic on February 20. Her mission was to support our project of systematics and phylogeny of the agaric genus Dermoloma, but also to get training in sampling and initial lab work for soil metabarcoding studies. The situation with the national emergency in Slovakia came after the airports closed and she was unable to leave and fly back home. We managed to extend her research stay officially, with funding until June 20, 2020, two months longer than originally planned. Thus, as we write this report, she is still officially with us on her research visit.

Barbora Zámocká is a native Slovak PhD student at our lab. She started her study in September 2019. Her topic is, “Diversity of Soil Fungi Along the Altitudinal Gradient in the Beech Forests of Slovakia.” We communicated our research with our sister group, Peter Baldrianʹs Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology of the Institute of Microbiology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Peter Baldrian promised to send an expert for soil sampling to supervise work at our research plots, but soon our borders were closed for any travel. Sampling at research plots also became impossible because all lodging services in the sampling area were closed. Training of Barbora needs to be postponed to the second half of the year, and training of Munazza at beech forests has to be cancelled.

As an alternative to train both Barbora and Munazza, we proposed a new project: succession of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi in Carpinus hedge. This is a home project, because the study site is placed in the private garden of lab leader, Slavomír Adamčík. Carpinus betulus is native in Slovakia and a common ECM tree in the sampling area. The hedge was planted from young seedlings in 2006. It is 40 m long with three trees per meter, and shows a gradient of artificially disrupted soil near the entrance to the garden to an unmanaged area in the central part and again artificially degraded soil near the garage. The position of the hedge is isolated, with the closest native forest at least 200 m away in every direction. Slavomír has been collecting data and specimens of fungi almost every day since the hedge was planted. We currently have records and dried specimens of fungi over 14 years. We sampled soil cores every meter along the Carpinus hedge. Barbora and Munazza will get their training. We are all curious to see if we will recover approximately the same diversity from fruiting body collections and metabarcoding data, and how much soil degradation influences diversity shifts of ECM fungi.

Munazza Kiran taking soil cores from Carpinus hedge
Tricholoma scalpturatum growing at the collecting site 2 weeks after the sampling
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