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Chalara longipes
Photo credit: Ondřej Koukol

Within the framework of the CSP project 'Metatranscriptomics of Forest Soil Ecosystems', we are aiming to explore the interaction of forest trees with communities of soil fungi, including ectomycorrhizal symbionts that dramatically affect bioenergy-relevant plant growth, and saprotrophic soil fungi impacting carbon sequestration in forests. We are sequencing the metatranscriptome of soil fungi in ecosystems representative of major Earth ecosystems, the boreal, temperate and mediterranean forests. We are also sequencing the genome of the most abundant fungal species harvested on studied sites to serve as the foundation for a reference database for metagenomics of fungi and for a comprehensive survey of the potential soil fungal metabolome.

Chalara longipes

Chalara longipesis an anamorphic species, belonging to the order Helotiales. It associates with dead coniferous needles on the forest floor and causes significant losses of cellulose, but the apparent lack of ligninolytic capacity limits its overall capacity as a litter degrader. C. longipes represents an important ecological group of needle degrading ascomycetes, which play a key role in the carbon cycle of coniferous ecosystems. The interactions between cellulolytic ascomycetes and lignocellulolytic basidiomycetes may be a decisive factor determining the balance between loss and accumulation of recalcitrant decomposition remains.

Members of the order Helotiales are abundantly occurring in acidic soils, and in boreal and alpine ecosystems, where they contribute a major part of the ascomycete diversity. Functional diversity is high in Helotiales with ericoid- and ectomycorrhizal symbionts, plant pathogens and endophytes, as well as saprotrophs of wood, litter and fungal tissues. Often, contrasting ecological strategies may be found within clades of relatively closely related species, and the phylotaxonomic and functional diversity remains poorly understood.