'Decomposer' Basidiomycota in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems

Katherine E. Ludley, Clare H. Robinson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Current knowledge concerning 'decomposer' Basidiomycota in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems is based on two sources: (a) collections and surveys of basidiomata, which have resulted in high-quality catalogues of species, although much of the species' distribution and ecology are tentative and (b) isolations from soils and plant litter which typically result in a "low incidence of basidiomycetes" [Dowding, P., Widden, P., 1974. Some relations between fungi and their environment in tundra regions. In: Holding, A.J., Heal, O.W., MacLean Jr., S.F., Flanagan, P.W. (Eds.), Soil Organisms and Decomposition in Tundra. Tundra Biome Steering Committee, Stockholm, Sweden, pp. 123-150], probably because of selectivity in isolation methods. In the few molecular studies carried out in Arctic and Antarctic soils to date, basidiomycetes, particularly yeasts, have been found. These techniques should give better estimates of the order of magnitude of fungal species richness in Arctic and Antarctic soils, although caution should be used concerning primer choice and amplification conditions. From collections in Arctic regions, species of basidiomycetes appear to be circumpolar in distribution with restricted endemism. Using culture-independent methods, it should be possible to test whether selected Arctic or Antarctic species are truly cosmopolitan, circumpolar, endemic, or are cryptic phylogenetic species. Particularly in Arctic ecosystems, potential 'decomposer' fungi in soils and roots may be from phylogenetically diverse taxa, and currently it is unclear whether 'decomposer' basidiomycetes are the fungi undertaking the majority of organic matter decomposition in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems. For example, in some recent studies, wood decomposition in cold Arctic and Antarctic sites appears to proceed via 'soft rot' by anamorphic ascomycetes (e.g. Cadophora species), rather than by 'white rot' or 'brown rot' basidiomycete species. Additionally, it appears basidiomycetes and ascomycetes as ericoid and ectomycorrhizal fungi have the potential to be involved directly in decomposition. Given that profound changes are likely to occur in patterns of vegetation (Arctic and Antarctic) and size of soil carbon (C) pools (particularly in the Arctic) by the end of this century, it is necessary to know more about which species of 'decomposer' basidiomycetes are present and to try to define their potentially pivotal roles in ecosystem C (and N) cycling. One solution to characterise further the identity and roles of these fungi in a logical way, is to standardise methods of detection and 'function' at networks of sites, including along latitudinal gradients. Results of functional tests should be related to community structure, at least for 'key' species. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11-29
    Number of pages18
    JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


    • Antarctic
    • Arctic
    • Basidiomycota
    • Carbon cycling
    • Climate change
    • Decomposition
    • DNA
    • Ecosystem functioning
    • Fungi
    • Mycorrhizas
    • RNA
    • Saprotrophs
    • Tundra


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