To preserve wetland ecosystem function, federal and state agencies have developed assessment procedures to better manage remaining wetland areas. Currently, wetland assessments do not consider microorganisms when determining wetland quality. This is notable, because fungi are often the primary decomposers of organic material and thus important players in nutrient cycling. The objective of this study is to quantify how wetland quality, as measured using the Ohio Rapid Assessment Method (ORAM), relates to fungal community composition. We sampled soils from six depressional emergent marshes in Ohio belonging to each of the three ORAM quality categories, assessed soil physicochemical properties, and recovered fungal DNA. We then determined if wetland quality as expressed by the ORAM reflects soil health. Our results indicate that ORAM scoring methodology significantly explains differences in fungal community composition between wetlands. We also found that soil physicochemical properties not currently included in the ORAM are strong drivers of fungal community composition, particularly bulk density, pH, soil organic matter, and soil moisture. Overall, our results suggest fungal community composition reflects wetland quality as assessed by the ORAM, and that the ORAM and potentially other wetland assessments could better capture the soil environment by including easily measured soil physicochemical properties.
Rúa, M. A.
(2019). The Missing Metric: An Evaluation of Fungal Importance in Wetland Assessments. Wetlands.