SREL Reprint #2584




Aquatic actinomycete-fungal interactions and their effects on organic matter decomposition: a microcosm study

D. L. Wohl and J. V. McArthur

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Aiken, SC 29802

Abstract: The role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in streams has been well examined, although the role of bacterial antagonists in such processes has gained little attention. To examine bacterial-fungal interactions, experiments involving pairwise combinations of four actinomycete isolates (A1+ and A2+ could remove chitin from chitin-containing media, and A1- and A2- could not) and two fungal isolates (F+ a true fungus, F- an oomycote) were conducted. For each bacterial-fungal combination, 250-ml microcosms were sampled at 8 day intervals for 32 days. Microbial biomass and organic matter, as well as the activities of five extracellular enzymes, were measured. Each experiment consisted of a control group and four treatment groups. Controls comprised sterilized stream water and macrophytes. The first treatment was inoculated with only actinomycetes (~103 cells ml-1), the second treatment was inoculated with only fungi (~102 cells ml-1), the third group was inoculated simultaneously with actinomycetes and fungi, and the fourth group was inoculated with actinomycetes 2 days after fungal establishment. For all combinations, the lowest rates of organic matter decomposition were expected in the controls, as a result of only physical degradation. In contrast, the greatest rates of organic matter decomposition were predicted in treatments inoculated with F+ 2 days prior to A1- or A2-. Greater than 50% of the organic matter was decomposed in each of the fungal treatments. Fungal-actinomycete interactions resulted in reduced fungal biomass relative to the fungal-only treatments. However, when inoculated 2 days apart, combinations of F- and actinomycetes resulted in enhanced rates of organic matter decomposition, as well as greater levels of extracellular enzyme activities. These results demonstrate that actinomycete-fungal interactions and their colonization dynamics affect the accumulation of biomass, extracellular enzyme activities, and rates of organic matter decomposition.

SREL Reprint #2584

Wohl, D. L. and J V. McArthur. 2001. Aquatic actinomycete-fungal interactions and their effects on organic matter decomposition: A microcosm study. Microbial Ecology 42:446-457.

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