Large, high-severity burn patches limit fungal recovery 13 years after wildfire in a ponderosa pine forest

Suzanne M. Owen, Adair M. Patterson, Catherine A. Gehring, Carolyn H. Sieg, L. Scott Baggett, Peter Z. Fulé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Over the past three decades, wildfires in southwestern US ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson) forests have increased in size and severity. These wildfires can remove large, contiguous patches of mature forests, alter dominant plant communities and increase woody debris, potentially altering fungal community composition. Additionally, post-fire conditions may shift dominant fungal functional groups from plant-symbiotic ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi to more decomposer saprotrophic fungi. We investigated the long-term (13 years post-wildfire) effect of fire severity on 1) fungal sporocarp density, functional groups and community composition and 2) EM colonization and community composition from naturally regenerating ponderosa pine seedlings on the Pumpkin Fire that burned in 2000 in Arizona, USA. Plots were located in four burn severity classes: unburned, moderate-severity, and two high-severity (defined as 100% tree mortality) classes, either adjacent to residual live forest edges (edge plots), or >200 m from any residual live trees (interior plots). We found that high-severity burn plots had a unique sporocarp community composition, and a shift in dominant sporocarp functional groups, with 5–13 times lower EM sporocarp densities, and 4–7 times lower EM sporocarp species richness compared to unburned and moderate-severity plots. In contrast, saprotrophic sporocarp densities and richness were similar among burn severity classes, even with the large amount of coarse wood in the high-severity burn patches. Regenerating ponderosa pine seedlings had similar EM colonization and richness among severity classes, yet high-severity interior plots had a different community composition and a lower relative abundance of EM species compared to moderate-severity burn plots. Taken together, our results suggest that large patches of high-severity fire have long-term consequences for both EM sporocarp and root tip communities. Because EM fungal species vary in function, the limited species pool available in interior high-severity burn patches may influence pine recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107616
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi
  • Forest resilience
  • Mushrooms
  • Regenerating pine seedlings
  • Saprotrophic fungi
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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