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Abstract Detail



Ecology/Pathology

Jusino, Michelle Alice [1], Lindner, Daniel L.  [2], Skelton, James [1], Banik, Mark T.  [2], Walters, Jeffrey R. [1].

A successional partnership: the fungal communities associated with a cavity-excavating woodpecker.

Possible mutualisms between fungi and primary cavity excavators facilitate cavity excavation and may be of critical importance to the maintenance of biodiversity in some forest systems. Here, we address a potential mutualism between red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis; RCWs) and the fungal communities that may facilitate RCW excavation by decreasing cavity excavation time and effort. RCWs may in turn facilitate the dispersal and colonization of some fungi. Interactions between RCWs and fungi are particularly interesting because RCWs are the only birds that exclusively excavate through the sapwood and into the heartwood of living pines, a process that can take many years to complete. Our previous work demonstrated that trees possessing cavity excavations by RCWs are infected by distinct fungal communities, suggesting that the birds either; 1) select trees with distinct fungal communities (tree selection hypothesis), or 2) create distinct fungal communities via their excavations (bird introduction hypothesis). In order to test the feasibility of bird introduction, we swabbed the beaks, wings and feet of RCWs for fungi and found that RCWs carry wood decay fungi similar to those found in their completed excavations. These results suggest that RCWs transmit wood decay fungi during the excavation process. We then experimentally tested the bird introduction hypothesis by creating human-made RCW accessible and inaccessible cavity starts (incomplete excavations). Woodpecker accessibility did not affect the prevalence of fungi; however RCW accessibility affected the composition of fungal communities over time. Fungal communities in starts that were accessible to RCWs resembled those found in completed RCW excavations whereas fungal communities in inaccessible starts followed a different trajectory of fungal community succession. Our results suggest that the ecosystem function served by cavity excavators may rely upon complex symbiotic associations with fungal communities. Our work provides support for the bird introduction hypothesis and suggests a mutualistic association between cavity excavators and communities of fungi with implications for forest ecology, wildlife management and conservation. 


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1 - Virginia Tech, Biological Sciences, 2125 Derring Hall, 1405 Perry St. , Blacksburg, VA, 24061, USA
2 - USFS, Center for Forest Mycology Research, One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, WI, 53726, USA

Keywords:
Mutualism
Woodpecker-fungus interaction
Fungal communities.

Presentation Type: Offered Paper - Paper
Session: 15
Location: Auditorium/Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
Date: Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Time: 10:45 AM
Number: 15002
Abstract ID:178
Candidate for Awards:Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award


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