Conservation methods often are focused on preserving the biodiversity of a particular landscape or ecosystem. Scientists frequently employ species richness as an indicator of biodiversity. However, species richness data are problematic when attempts are made to enumerate microfungi, particularly those from the soil. Many soil fungi fail to sporulate, making identification difficult. Other means of assessing the importance of fungi to ecosystem preservation must be developed. Otherwise, microfungi might be overlooked in discussions of ecosystem management and conservation issues. Herein, we have described a procedure (Soil FungiLog) and analytical techniques that will let investigators examine the functional role that soil fungi play in providing structure and stability to ecosystems. Ecosystem function in many cases might be more important than species diversity in gaining an understanding of ecosystem dynamics. Functional attributes are critical for maintaining ecosystem structure and stability. The preservation of the functions associated with the extant biota, particularly from soil microbes, might be just as important as species diversity in the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity. The Soil FungiLog procedure was used to assess functional diversity of soil fungi in a Georgia forest disturbed by human activity and along an elevational gradient in the Chihuahuan Desert. Sites within each location were separated on the basis of fungal carbon substrate utilization profiles. These profiles were analyzed to provide information regarding the functional diversity of soil fungal assemblages at each site. The effects of disturbance and elevation were evaluated with respect to soil fungal functional diversity.
- Discriminant function analysis
- Functional diversity
- Soil fungi