Fungi Control Nutrient Availability to Trees

[photo:] Amauroderm species cause root-rot of trees.Research Issue

We need to understand how fungi influence soil fertility and forest productivity.

Our Research

Our research focuses on how decay fungi influence nutrient cycling, soil carbon sequestration and nutrient exchange with tree roots. Many of our studies are coupled with measurement of forest productivity and some are associated with natural forest disturbances and forestry operations.

Expected Outcomes

We expect to be able to predict the effects of decay fungi on forest soil fertility and tree growth, and determine new methods for measuring nutrient uptake in forests.

Research Results

We have found that soil nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon rapidly accumulate under decomposing logs in forests, both at the surface and deeper in the soil. After a forest disturbance like a fire or timber harvesting, downed trees and woody debris are attacked by fungal decomposers. As these fungi free up nutrients from the dead wood, living forest trees experience a burst of growth. We have found that in trees that depend heavily on mycorrhizal fungi for their nutrition, phosphorus uptake is correlated with the length of mycorrhizal fungi extending outside the tree roots, not on the lengths of the roots themselves.


Gonzalez, Grizelle; Lodge, D. 2017. Soil biology research across latitude, elevation and disturbance gradients: A review of forest studies from Puerto Rico during the past 25 years. Forests.

Lodge, D. Jean; Winter, Dirk; Gonzalez, Grizelle; Clum, Naomi. 2016. Effects of hurricane-felled tree trunks on soil carbon, nitrogen, microbial biomass, and root length in a wet tropical forest. Forests. 7, 264; doi:10.3390/f7110264.

Forrester, J. A.; Mladenoff, D. J.; D’Amato, A. W.; Fraver, S.; Lindner, D. L.; Brazee, N. J.; Clayton, M. K.; Gower, S. T. Temporal trends and sources of variation in carbon flux from coarse woody debris in experimental forest canopy openings. Oecologia 179, no. 3 (2015): 889-900.

Shiels, Aaron B.; Gonzalez, Grizelle; Lodge, D. Jean; Willig, Michael R; Zimmerman, Jess K. 2015. Cascading Effects of Canopy Opening and Debris Deposition from a Large-Scale Hurricane Experiment in a Tropical Rain Forest. BioScience, September 2015. Volume 65, Number 9; pp. 871-881.

Brazee, Nicholas J.; Lindner, Daniel L.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Fraver, Shawn; Forrester, Jodi A.; Mladenoff, David J. 2014. Disturbance and diversity of wood-inhabiting fungi: effects of canopy gaps and downed woody debris. Biodiversity and Conservation. 23(9): 2155-2172.

Cantrell, Sharon A.; Molina, Marirosa; Lodge, D. Jean; Rivera-Figueroa, Francisco J.; Ortiz, Maria; Marchetti, Albany A.; Cyterski, Mike J.; Perez-Jimenez, Jose R. 2014. Effects of a simulated hurricane disturbance on forest floor microbial communities. Forest Ecology & Management. 332: 22-31.

Gonzalez, G.; Lodge, D.J.; Richardson, B.A.; Richardson, M.J. 2014. A canopy trimming experiment in Puerto Rico: The response of litter decomposition and nutrient release to canopy opening and debris deposition in a subtropical wet forest. Forest Ecology and Management. 332:32-46.

Lodge, D. Jean; Cantrell, Sharon A.; Gonzalez, Grizelle. 2014. Effects of canopy opening and debris deposition on fungal connectivity, phosphorus movement between litter cohorts and mass loss. Forest Ecology and Management. 332: 11-21.

Cantrell, Sharon A.; Lodge, D. Jean; Cruz, Carlos A.; Garcia, Luis M.; Perez-Jimenez, Jose R.; Molina, Marirosa. 2013. Differential abundance of microbial functional groups along the elevation gradient from the coast to the Luquillo Mountains. Ecological Bulletins. 54: 87-100.

Brazee, N. J.; Lindner, D. L.; Fraver, S.; D'Amato, A. W.; Milo, A. M. 2012. Wood-inhabiting, polyporoid fungi in aspen-dominated forests managed for biomass in the US Lake States. Fungal Ecology, 5(5), 600-609.

Brokaw, N.; Zimmerman, J.K.; Willig, M.; Camilo, G.; Covich, A.; Crowl, T.; Fetcher, N.; Haines, B.; Lodge, J.; Lugo, A.E.; Myster, R.; Pringle, C.M.; Sharpe, J.; Scatena, F.; Schowalter, T.; Silver, W.; Thompson, J.; Vogt, D.; Vogt, K.; Waide, R.; Walker, L.; Woolbright, L.; Wunderle, J.M.; Zou, X. 2012. Response to disturbance, Chapter 5. N. Brokaw, T.A. Crowl, A.E. Lugo, W.H. McDowell, F.N. Scatena, R.B. Waide, M. R. Willig, eds. A Caribbean forest tapestry: the multidimensional nature of disturbance and response. New York: Oxford University Press.

Crowl, T.A.; Brokaw, N.; Waide, R.B.; Gonzalez, G.; Beard, K.H.; Greathouse, E.A.; Lugo, A.E.; Covich, A.P.; Lodge, D.J.; Pringle, C.M.; Thompson, J.; Belovsky, G.E. 2012. When and where biota matter, linking disturbance regime, species characteristics, and dynamics of communities and ecosystems. N. Brokaw, T.A. Crowl, A.E. Lugo, W.H. McDowell, F.N. Scatena, R.B. Waide, and M.R. Willig, editors. A Caribbean forest tapestry: the multidimensional nature of disturbance and response. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lebron, Ligia; Lodge, Jean D.; Bayman, Paul. 2012. Differences in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi among three coffee cultivars in Puerto Rico. ISRN Agronomy 2012: 1-7. doi:10.5402/2012/148042

Lindner, Daniel L.; Vasaitis, Rimvydas; Kubartova, Ariana; Allmer, Johan; Johannesson, Hanna; Banik, Mark T.; Stenlid, Jan. 2011. Initial fungal colonizer affects mass loss and fungal community development in Picea abies logs 6 yr after inoculation. Fungal Ecology. 4: 449-460.

Palmer, Jonathan M.; Lindner, Daniel L.; Volk, Thomas J. 2008. Ectomycorrhizal characterization of an American chestnut (Castanea dentata)-dominated community in Western Wisconsin. Mycorrhiza. 19: 27-36.

Lodge, D. Jean; McDowell, William H.; Macy, Jordan; Ward, Sarah Katherine; Leisso, Rachel; Claudio-Campos, Karla; Kuhnert, Kerstin. 2007. Distribution and role of mat-forming saprobic basidiomycetes in a tropical forest. In: Boddy, Lynne; Frankland, Juliet; Van West, Peiter, eds. Ecology of saprotrophic basidiomycetes. The British Mycological Society. Academic Press: 197-209.

Lindner, D. L., Burdsall Jr, H. H., & Stanosz, G. R. (2006). Species diversity of polyporoid and corticioid fungi in northern hardwood forests with differing management histories. Mycologia, 98(2), 195-217.

Czederpiltz, D.L.L.; Wikler, K.; Radmacher, M.R.; Volk, T.J.; Hadar, Y.; Micales, J. 2004. Biodiversity of wood-inhabiting fungi in Israeli pine forests. Fungi in forest ecosystems : systematics, diversity, and ecology. New York : New York Botanical Garden, 2004. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden ; vol. 89: Pages [191]-202

Zimmerman, Jess K.; Pulliam, William M.; Lodge, D. Jean; Quinones-Orfila, Vanessa; Fetcher, Ned; Guzman-Grajales, Sandra; Parrotta, John A.; Asbury, Clyde E.; Walker, Lars R.; Waide, Robert B. 1995. Nitrogen immobilization by decomposing woody debris and the recovery of tropical wet forest from hurricane disturbance. Oikos

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Dan Lindner, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Research Plant Pathologist
  • Michael Castellano, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Research Forester
  • D. Jean Lodge, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Botanist (retired)

Research Partners

  • Last modified: May 16, 2019