Mycorrhizas on nursery and field seedlings of Quercus garryana

Oak woodland regeneration and restoration requires that seedlings develop mycorrhizas, yet the need for this mutualistic association is often overlooked. In this study, we asked whether Quercus garryana seedlings in nursery beds acquire mycorrhizas without artificial inoculation or access to a mycorrhizal network of other ectomycorrhizal hosts. We also assessed the relationship between mycorrhizal infection and seedling growth in a nursery. Further, we compared the mycorrhizal assemblage of oak nursery seedlings to that of conifer seedlings in the nursery and to that of oak seedlings in nearby oak woodlands. Seedlings were excavated and the roots washed and examined microscopically. Mycorrhizas were identified by DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region and by morphotype. On oak nursery seedlings, predominant mycorrhizas were species of Laccaria and Tuber with single occurrences of Entoloma and Peziza. In adjacent beds, seedlings of Pseudotsuga menziesii were mycorrhizal with Hysterangium and a different species of Laccaria; seedlings of Pinus monticola were mycorrhizal with Geneabea, Tarzetta, and Thelephora. Height of Q. garryana seedlings correlated with root biomass and mycorrhizal abundance. Total mycorrhizal abundance and abundance of Laccaria mycorrhizas significantly predicted seedling height in the nursery. Native oak seedlings from nearby Q. garryana woodlands were mycorrhizal with 13 fungal symbionts, none of which occurred on the nursery seedlings. These results demonstrate the value of mycorrhizas to the growth of oak seedlings. Although seedlings in nursery beds developed mycorrhizas without intentional inoculation, their mycorrhizas differed from and were less species rich than those on native seedlings.