Plant Ecology and Evolution 154(1): 15-27, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2021.1762
Assemblages of myxomycetes associated with three different substrates affected by forest wildfires
expand article infoSteven L. Stephenson, Nazrana Payal§, Gurpreet Kaur§, Carlos Rojas Alvarado|
‡ University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, United States of America§ Department of Biotechnology, Shoolini University of Biotechnology and Management Sciences, Solan-Oachghat-Kumarhatti Highway, Bajol, Solan, Himachal Pradesh 173229, India| Forest Resources Unit, Engineering Research Institute, University of Costa Rica, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, 11501 – Costa Rica, Costa Rica
Open Access

Background and aims – In late November and early December of 2016, forest wildfires occurred over portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (USA) and more than 4 000 ha were affected. Previous studies have shown that myxomycete assemblages can be greatly impacted as a result of this type of disturbance; after which, the recovery of the forest determines the availability of substrates for new colonisation. The objective of the project reported herein was to assess the impact of wildfires on the recovery of the assemblages of myxomycetes associated with three different substrates (forest floor leaf litter, the bark of living trees, and woody twigs) in two areas with different fire intensity.

Material and methods – Two study areas subjected to different fire intensity were selected and sampled 30 months after the wildfires. Myxomycetes were studied using the moist chamber culture technique as it applies to these organisms. Satellite imagery was used to determine forest recovery and similarity indices were used to compare experimental myxomycete assemblages among study areas and substrates. Historical data were used as a reference to contextualise the results.

Key results – A total of 38 species of myxomycetes representing 17 different genera were recorded from the two study areas. Samples from the lower intensity burn area yielded more myxomycetes than samples from the higher intensity burn area, with values of 84% and 59%, respectively. This same pattern was also observed for the number of recorded specimens (133 and 93, respectively). The comparison of experimental assemblages with previous data suggested that ground litter assemblages were still in early stages of recovery, whereas the assemblages associated with bark and twigs had recovered much faster.

Conclusion – The relatively higher intensity fire had more of an effect on myxomycetes than the relatively lower intensity fire. Myxomycete assemblages are resilient to wildfires and they recover differentially depending on the substrate they grow on.

disturbance, ecological recovery, forest ecology, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, slime molds, Tennessee


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