The Role Of Basidiomycete Litter Decomposers In Nutrient Cycling

In temperate and boreal forests, fungi play an important role in ecosystems by decomposing organic matter, thereby releasing nutrients that then become available to plants (Swift et al., 1979; Beare et al., 1992). Unlike most other fungi, basidiomycetes have enzymes that enable them to delignify 'low-quality' litter with high lignin and low nutrient content (Hintikka, 1970; Carreiro et al., 2000; see Chapters 3 and 10). Non-unit-restricted basidiomycetes (i.e., those that grow from one resource in search of others; Chapter 1) have the potential to colonize and degrade low-quality resources more rapidly than unit-restricted fungi, by translocating nutrients from partly decomposed resources, enabling them to build biomass in new resources that are deficient in nutrients (Swift, 1977;

Frankland, 1982; Watkinson, 1984; Chapters 2,10 and 11). This is equally the case in tropical systems (Lodge, 1993; Lodge et al., 1994).

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