Unravelling hidden designer of Arctic vegetation
Top image: Sunil Mundra sampling Bistorta vivipara near Feiringbreen glacier, Ny-Ålesund. Photo: UNIS.
Sunil Mundra has investigated fungal richness and community structure, and their drivers at different spatial and temporal scales in the High Arctic region (Svalbard), using next generation sequencing methods. Sunil Mundra will defend his PhD thesis on 16 December at UNIS.
11 December 2015
Press release from the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the University of Oslo
Fungi play crucial roles in decomposition, symbiotic interactions, and biogeochemical cycling in the High Arctic. They are finely tuned with their habitats and timing of seasonal events. However, ongoing climate change is having detrimental effects on this balance.
Sunil Mundra has investigated fungal richness and community structure, and their drivers at different spatial and temporal scales in the High Arctic region (Svalbard), using next generation sequencing methods. Sampling was performed at different spatial (cm to km) and temporal scales (weeks to years), using the widespread, ectomycorrhizal herb Alpine bistort (Bistorta vivipara) as study system.
Results demonstrated that fungal community structure varies both spatially and temporally and patterns were typically scale-dependent. Structural patterns were weaker at fine scales than at broad scales of space and time. At broad scales, community structure variation was related to variation in environmental conditions (temperature, moisture, soil properties etc.).
Weather conditions a significant factor
Root-associated fungal richness showed a typical species-area relationship, and was related to root size per host plant as well as geographical span of sampling. Fungal richness was also related to environmental factors, e.g. lower richness was found in sites with nutrient poor soil conditions. Another example is the response to experimentally increased snow depth; the richness of decomposing fungi increased, while symbiotic fungi decreased. Furthermore, Mundra found that temporally variable environmental and weather conditions significantly influence fungal richness.
In conclusion, the spatial structure of fungal communities is influenced by environmental variable over broad spatial scales, whereas random processes are more important on finer scales. Temporal variations in weather and environmental conditions are important determinant of community structural pattern both at fine and broad (growing season versus winter) temporal scale.
Sunil Mundra will defend his PhD thesis, entitled: “Richness and community structure of High Arctic fungi through space and time explored using high-throughput sequencing” at UNIS on Wednesday 16 December 2015 at 12:30 in the auditorium “Lassegrotta”.
He will hold a trial lecture entitled: “Fungal dispersal ecology and how it may affect fungal responses to global climate change compared to animals and plants” at 10:15 the same day.
About the candidate:
Sunil Mundra was born in 1983 in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. He completed his Master’s degree in Microbiology at RTM Nagpur University, India in 2008.
Thereafter, he started research career at the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR, DRDO), located at Leh-Ladakh (11,500 ft). There he studied microbial associate of Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) roots. In 2011, he started his PhD studies at UNIS and University of Oslo, in the field of Microbial Molecular Ecology.
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