Research to be presented on old-growth temperate rain forests

FORKS — Researcher Korena Mafune will present her latest findings on old-growth temperate rain forests in Western Washington at 7 tonight.

The free Evening Talk at the ONRC will take place in the Hemlock Forest Room of the Olympic Natural Resources Center, 1455 S. Forks Ave. Refreshments will be served, and guests are encouraged to bring favorite desserts.

Mafune will speak about the lifelong relationships between plants and fungi and how they contribute to the characteristics of old-growth temperate rain forests.

Throughout the past three decades, organic canopy soils and adventitious roots have been reported in temperate old-growth rain forests. Despite these reports, experiments have not elucidated their role in the functioning and resilience of these rain forests to droughts. Evidence shows adventitious roots form fungal mutualists, but not how diversity and functional roles vary compared to the forest floors.

Mafune’s research aims to determine if the community diversity of mutualistic fungi in canopy soils enhance the resilience of Acer macrophyllum to drier climates versus communities found in the forest floor, and if these communities respond to pulses of phosphorus, in respect to the varying soil characteristics found in canopy versus forest floor soil ecosystems.

Preliminary research extracted fungal DNA from forest floor and canopy root tips of old-growth Acer macrophyllum — big leaf maple — located in an old-growth temperate rain forest of Olympic National Park.

Sequences suggested fungal diversities differ between canopy and forest floor soils. To test the functional roles of these diverse mutualists, a larger-scale experimental manipulation of water, DNA analyses and imaging will take place.

Mafune’s research project will experimentally reduce or increase precipitation levels on 18 old-growth Acer macrophyllum trees in two similar temperate rain forest stands.

During the experimental drought manipulation, fungal communities from both forest floor and canopy rooting systems will be sequenced and stained for fluorescent microscopy. Also, changes in available phosphorous will be assessed in drought to determine whether seasonal rainfall regimes and resulting nutrient availabilities are a determining factor in the structure of these fungal communities.

Mafune’s master’s and current doctoral research at the University of Washington focuses on canopy soils developing on branches of big-leaf maple in the state’s old-growth temperate rain forests.

She takes an interest in the potential role fungi might play in canopy soils and the resiliency of these old-growth forests, as the region faces wetter winters and drier summers. She will present some preliminary results on the diversity of fungi found in these ecosystems, as well as soil phosphorus and nitrogen results from her study plots.

Evening Talks at ONRC are funded through the Rosmond Forestry Education Fund, an endowment that honors the contributions of Fred Rosmond and his family to forestry and the Forks community.

For more information, contact Frank Hanson at 360-374-4556 or fsh2@uw.edu.