Student: Lill Eilertsen

The majority of temperate and boreal forest trees live in symbioses with ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF). Considering all benefits of EMF for forest soils and tree growth and health, their conservation is economically and ecologically highly important. Clear-cutting is a common forestry practice in Sweden that disturbs the fungal community in soils. This PhD project aims in its first part at identifying the effect of alternative harvesting practices such as gap-harvesting with various gap sizes at an experimental site installed by Bergvik Skog in Jämtland, Sweden on fungal biodiversity in soil samples using DNA-amplicon sequencing. DNA-amplicon sequencing is a tedious and laborious but today the most accurate method to identify EMF communities in soils. To make it possible for forestry companies to assess EMF biodiversity and take it into account for favoring tree growth, we are developing a rapid and cost-efficient method for EMF identification using hand-held spectroscopic devices. To validate this method, results on sensitivity and specificity of fungal identification in soil samples will be compared to data from DNA-amplicon sequencing. In a third part of this PhD project we aim at developing inoculation techniques with EMF beneficial for pine seedling growth and survival. This development involves improvement of procedures but also defining beneficial EMF combinations and is intended for future use in nurseries. Inoculating seedlings already in nurseries with EMF identified at forest sites for out-planting, has the potential to shorten the seedling’s adaptation phase after out-planting and to enhance seedling survival and growth. The long-term aim of this project is to give forest companies research-based guidelines for more sustainable forestry practices with least detrimental impact on EMF biodiversity and to provide new tools that make EMF assessment more widely accessible and EMF use a practical routine in forest management.

Supervisor: Judith Felten (SLU, Umeå)
Co-supervisor: Vaughan Harry (SLU, Umeå), Nathaniel Street (Umeå universitet), Torgny Näsholm (SLU, Umeå), Anders Dahlberg (SLU, Uppsala)
Industry partner: Stora Enso - Björn Sundberg, Oskar Skogström