Date of Award

5-13-2011

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Plant, Soil & Insect Sciences

First Advisor

Robert L. Wick

Second Advisor

Robert E. Marra

Third Advisor

Geunhwa Jung

Subject Categories

Plant Sciences

Abstract

The ecology, species distribution, and population structure of Armillaria was investigated in the forests of Massachusetts. From 64 plots at 16 sites, 640 isolates of Armillaria were collected from six forest types (northern hardwoods, mixed oak, pitch pine, white pine, white pine/mixed oak, and eastern hemlock). Armillaria gallica proved to be the most abundant species, making up 316/640 (52%) of all isolations. This was followed by A. solidipes (219/640; 34%), A. mellea (46/640; 7%), A. calvescens (36/640; 6%), A. gemina (16/640; 3%), and A. sinapina (7/640; 1%). Armillaria gallica was routinely encountered causing significant decay of the lower bole on living hardwood hosts, especially oaks. The population structure of 153 isolates of A. gallica collected from mixed oak forests was investigated using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs). From a total sampling area of 4.51 ha, 38 AFLP genotypes were discovered, yielding a figure of eight genets per hectare with the average A. gallica genet occupying 0.13 ha. When the effects of hydrolyzable tannins on in vitro growth were compared between A. calvescens and A. gallica, it was A. gallica that appeared better at oxidizing and metabolizing commercial tannins (tannic acid and gallic acid) along with black oak root bark extracts. This was determined through measurements of colony area and dry biomass, and suggests that A. gallica may be a better adapted pathogen of oak. In order to more accurately distinguish between isolates of A. calvescens and A. gallica, a three-gene phylogeny was reconstructed, using partial sequences of the elongation factor 1-alpha (tef1), RNA polymerase II (rpb2) and nuclear large subunit (nLSU) genes. After comparing 12 isolates each of A. calvescens and A. gallica that originated from across northeastern North America, only the tef1 gene could accurately distinguish these two species. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms were present between the two species and maximum likelihood and maximum parsimony methods grouped A. calvescens and A. gallica into monophyletic clades.

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