Saprotrophic Basidiomycetes in Grasslands Distribution and Function

Gareth W. Griffith and Kevin Roderick

Contents 1. Introduction 278

2. What is Grassland? 278

3. Functional Groups of Grassland Fungi 281

3.1 Litter Decomposers 281

3.2 Dung Decomposers 282

3.3 Terricolous/Lignicolous Decomposers and Fairy Rings 283

3.4 Root Endophytes/Pathogens 286

4. Detection of Grassland Fungi 287

5. Contribution of Saprotrophic Basidiomycetes to Nutrient Cycling and Soil Structure 289

6. Effects of Grassland Management and Climate Change 291

7. Conclusion 292 Acknowledgements 293 References 293

Abstract

Natural and semi-natural grasslands dominate many terrestrial ecosystems, with succession prevented by herbivore grazing, low rainfall and fire. Inputs to grassland soils are typically low in lignin, often comminuted and in the form of dung with below-ground inputs from roots being important. The several hundred basidiomycete species which are preferentially found in grassland can be placed into four functional groupings: litter decomposers, dung fungi, terricolous species and root endophytes. However, detection of these in the absence of basidiocarps has hampered their study, an exception being the fairy ring-forming species. It is clear that basidiomycetes contribute to lignocellulose degradation in grassland soil and litter, though it is likely that ascomycetes play a relatively greater part in this process than in woodland systems. Changes in agricultural management have led to the loss of many semi-natural grasslands in Europe and there are concerns about losses of several grassland taxa, such as Hygrocybe and Entoloma spp.

British Mycological Society Symposia Series Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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