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Cascading effects of insect outbreak on plant and fungal community structure and function Open Access


Other title
insect outbreak
community assembly
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Pec, Gregory J
Supervisor and department
Cahill, James (Biological Sciences)
Simard, Suzanne (Forest and Conservation Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Chen, Yan (Natural Resources Management)
Vinebrooke, Rolf (Biological Sciences)
Erbilgin, Nadir (Renewable Resources)
Department of Biological Sciences
Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Western North American landscapes are rapidly being transformed by forest die- off caused by mountain pine beetle with implications for plant and soil communities. The mechanisms that drive changes in plant and soil community structure and function, particularly for understory vegetation and the highly prevalent ectomycorrhizal fungi in pine forests, are complex and intertwined. In this thesis, I use a recent bark beetle outbreak in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests of western Canada to disentangle the relative importance of beetle-induced tree mortality from changes in environmental conditions following tree death, and in turn, its effects on: (1) understory plant community diversity and productivity, (2) the richness and composition of soil fungal communities, (3) the spatial structuring of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal communities, and (4) the functional importance of ectomycorrhizal fungal networks on tree seedling establishment. My results indicate that both deterministic and stochastic processes structure plant and soil fungal communities following landscape-level insect outbreak and reflect both the independent and shared roles tree mortality, soil chemistry, and spatial distance play in regulating both these communities. My results also demonstrate that ectomycorrhizal fungal networks seemed to not be degraded with stand level tree mortality, with access to these networks improving both the growth and nutrition of tree seedlings. Taken together, this thesis demonstrates the far-reaching effects of biotic disturbance and emphasizes the interconnectedness between understory vegetation, trees, soils, and soil fungi.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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