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Bark-inhabiting fungal communities of European chestnut undergo substantial alteration by canker formation following chestnut blight infection

Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI), Institute for National and International Plant Health, Germany
Douanla-Meli, Clovis;
Department of Soil Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Halle (Saale), Germany
Moll, Julia

Background: Chestnut forests are severely threatened by chestnut blight caused by the fungal pathogen Cryphonectria parasitica and the infected trees exhibit bark canker in the later stage of the disease. European chestnut (Castanea sativa) is further infected by Gnomoniopsis smithogilvyi, another canker-causing fungal pathogen. We explored whether and how chestnut blight is reflected in bark-inhabiting fungal communities of European chestnut and also assessed the co-occurrence of C. parasitica and G. smithogilvyi.
Materials and methods: We initially investigated the fungal communities of European chestnut bark tissues and further monitored changes in these fungal communities with regard to disease progression from infection to canker formation by analyzing bark samples from asymptomatic trees, asymptomatic trees with latent C. parasitica infection, and infected trees with canker tissues, using amplicon sequencing of the ITS2 region of rDNA.
Results: The results showed that fungal community composition and diversity differed between the sample types. The fungal community composition was substantially reshaped by canker formation, whereas latent C. parasitica infection and more specifically pre-canker infection period per se had a weak effect. Fungal communities of canker samples was less diverse and more dissimilar to those of other sample types. C. parasitica dominated the mycobiome of canker samples, whereas G. smithogilvyi was found in only 9% of canker samples at very low abundances. However, G. smithogilvyi was a dominant fungus in the bark of healthy plants.
Conclusion: This study highlights that canker formation is the principal driver of decreasing diversity and altered composition of the mycobiome in bark tissues of European chestnut infected by C. parasitica infection. It additionally emphasizes the scarce co-occurrence of C. parasitica and G. smithogilvyi on European chestnut.



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