Ectomycorrhizal networks in African miombo woodlands: composition and influence of different land use practices

Many regions of African miombo woodland are experiencing increasing population growth rates with associated increasing pressure on the woodlands, yet little is known about the impact of this increased land use on the woodland dynamics. Especially the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi, which play an essential role in these woodlands, are understudied. Our study aims to explore the ECM diversity and species composition in the miombo woodlands and investigate the ECM networks present under different land use practices. We will study plots from primary miombo woodland and compare them with plots from two different management types: slash-and-burn agriculture and single-tree harvesting. We will sample ECM root tips and fruiting bodies, and perform a combined metagenomic and morphological study in order to explore, map and compare communities of ECM fungi and construct host-symbiont networks. Knowledge of ECM networks (diversity, relative abundances, rare versus common species, host specificity, etc.) is of the utmost importance to understand miombo ecology in all its aspects. Ectomycorrhizal ecology is part and parcel to proper management and with our results, we aim to formulate advice for sustainable miombo regeneration and management.