Differential response of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal mycelium from coniferous forest soils to selected monoterpenes

Katherine E. Ludley, Clare H. Robinson, Sue Jickells, Paul M. Chamberlain, Jeanette Whitaker

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The mycelia of saprotrophic (SP) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi occur throughout the upper soil horizons in coniferous forests and could therefore be exposed to high concentrations of monoterpenes occurring in the needle litter of some tree species. Monoterpenes are mycotoxic and could potentially affect fungi that are exposed to them in the litter layers. In order to investigate whether monoterpenes typical of coniferous litters could influence fungal communities, we analysed the monoterpene content of freshly fallen needles of Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies and Picea sitchensis. The most abundant monoterpenes were found to be α-pinene, β-pinene and 3-carene. We evaluated the effects of these three monoterpene vapours on the biomass production of 23 SP isolates and 16 ECM isolates. Overall, 75% of ECM isolates and 26% of SP isolates were significantly inhibited by at least one of the monoterpene treatments and both intra- and inter-specific variations in response were observed. Monoterpene concentrations are highest in surface litters. The differential effects on fungal taxa may influence the spatial and temporal distribution of fungal community composition, indirectly affecting decomposition and nutrient cycling, the fundamental ecosystem processes in which fungi have a key role in coniferous forest soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-678
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • Community structure
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi
  • Litter layer
  • Monoterpenes
  • Saprotrophic fungi

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