Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Steven Stephenson

Committee Member

Fred Spiegel

Second Committee Member

Ravi Barabote

Third Committee Member

Young Min Kwon

Keywords

Coarse woody debris, DNA sequencing, fungal composition, fungal diversity, incubation chambers, ITS region, Northwest Arkansas, prescribed burning, wood decay fungi

Abstract

Prescribed burning is defined as the process of the planned application of fire to a predetermined area under specific environmental conditions in order to achieve a desired outcome such as land management. This project used both morphological and molecular methods to identify and characterize the wood-decay fungi associated with the forests of northwest Arkansas—Pea Ridge National Military Park, Devil’s Den State Park, and the Buffalo National River—through frequent visits made between February 2018 and February 2019. In addition, in order to assess the effects of prescribed burning, incubation chambers were used to compare the growth of fungi from both unburned and charred coarse woody debris collected from Pea Ridge National Military Park and the Buffalo National River, whereas coarse woody debris from Devil’s Den State Park served as control (no burning). Likewise, an effort was made to understand the effect of environmental conditions on fungi growth by comparing the species of fungi occurring in the field on coarse wood debris with those appearing under the controlled environment of the incubation chambers using portion of the same logs.

Approximately 216 different taxa of wood-decay fungi were recorded using morphological identification followed by sequence analysis of the intertranscribed spacer region of fungal specimens, using the ITS1 and ITS4 primers. This constituted at least 58 different families with representatives of the Polyporaceae the most common. Moreover, 102 different genera were identified. In addition, sixty-eight different taxa were obtained from unburned coarse wood debris in incubation chambers, whereas only six species were recorded from burned coarse wood debris in incubation chambers. Ten different taxa were identified from the fruiting bodies collected from ten different logs, whereas nine other taxa were identified from the same logs after being placed in the incubation chambers with a controlled environment.

In summary, the forests of northwest Arkansas harbor a diverse assemblage of wood-decay fungi which were found to be affected by prescribed burning to a considerable extent. In addition, it was found that incubation chambers can be used successfully to allow growth of wood-decay fungi under controlled environmental conditions. This study can be a good resource for future more comprehensive studies.

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