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Role of leaf litter in above-ground wood decay

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Kirker, Grant T.; Bishell, Amy ; Cappellazzi, Jed ; Palmer, Jonathan ; Bechle, Nathan ; Lebow, Patricia ; Lebow, Stan

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The effects of leaf litter on moisture content and fungal decay development in above-ground wood specimens were assessed. Untreated southern pine specimens were exposed with or without leaf litter contact. Two types of leaf litter were evaluated; aged (decomposed) and young (early stages of decomposition). The moisture content of specimens was monitored, and specimens were periodically removed for visual evaluation of decay development. In addition, amplicon-based sequencing analysis of specimens and associated leaf litter was conducted at two time points. Contact with either type of leaf litter resulted in consistently higher moisture contents than those not in contact with leaf litter. Visually, evident decay developed most rapidly in specimens in contact with the aged leaf litter. Analysis of amplicon-based sequencing revealed that leaf litter contributes a signifcant amount of the available wood decay fungal community with similar communities found in the litter exposed wood and litter itself, but dissimilar community profles from unexposed wood. Dominant species and guild composition shifted over time, beginning initially with more leaf saprophytes (ascomycetes) and over time shifting to more wood rotting fungi (basidiomycetes). These results highlight the importance of the contributions of leaf litter to fungal colonization and subsequent decay hazard for above-ground wood.


Wood decay fungi; saprophytic fungi; above-ground exposure; leaf litter; moisture content; amplicon-based sequencing


Kirker, Grant T.; Bishell, Amy; Cappellazzi, Jed; Palmer, Jonathan; Bechle, Nathan; Lebow, Patricia; Lebow, Stan. 2020. Role of leaf litter in above-ground wood decay. Microorganisms. 8(5). 22 p.

Last updated on: July 22, 2020