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Signatures of prescribed fire in the microbial communities of Cornus florida are largely undetectable five months post-fire...

by Melissa A Cregger
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Prescribed burn is a management tool that influences the physical structure and composition of forest plant communities and their associated microorganisms. Plant-associated microorganisms aid in host plant disease tolerance and increase nutrient availability. The effects of prescribed burn on microorganisms associated with native ecologically and economically important tree species, such as Cornus florida L. (flowering dogwood), are not well understood, particularly in aboveground plant tissues (e.g., leaf, stem, and bark tissues). The objective of this study was to use 16S rRNA gene and ITS2 region sequencing to evaluate changes in bacterial and fungal communities of five different flowering dogwood-associated niches (soil, roots, bark, stem, and leaves) five months following a prescribed burn treatment. The alpha- and beta-diversity of root bacterial/archaeal communities differed significantly between prescribed burn and unburned control-treated trees. In these bacterial/archaeal root communities, we also detected a significantly higher relative abundance of sequences identified as Acidothermaceae, a family of thermophilic bacteria. No significant differences were detected between prescribed burn-treated and unburned control trees in bulk soils or bark, stem, or leaf tissues. The findings of our study suggest that prescribed burn does not significantly alter the aboveground plant-associated microbial communities of flowering dogwood trees five months following the prescribed burn application. Further studies are required to better understand the short- and long-term effects of prescribed burns on the microbial communities of forest trees.