In order for researchers to understand temperate hardwood forest ecosystems, aboveground processes such as succession and net primary productivity are often the focus of experiments. However, belowground processes, such as interactions between tree roots and fungi, warrant further investigation. All trees in forests of the northern hemisphere have a root network that interacts with a specific fungal community called mycorrhizae. These two groups form an obligate symbiotic relationship which means that they require each other’s presence to survive. As the mycorrhizae break down organic nutrients for tree roots to more readily take up, the tree in turn releases carbon that feed the fungi. The strength and dependence of these interactions are dictated by the broad category in which the interaction falls: arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) or ectomycorrhizal (ECM). Our lab has set up a field experiment that studies these important belowground interactions and their effects on tree root neighborhoods. We placed root ingrowth cores in Jennings woods, a nearby hardwood forest owned by Kent State University. One key element of this experiment is developing a method to identify tree roots collected from these cores. This poster presents a way to identify roots from unknown tree species using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) digestion to amplify root DNA and create a unique molecular fingerprint for each species. This library of known profiles can then be used to identify samples of unknown roots collected from the ingrowth cores in our experiment, as well as hardwood forests worldwide.
In Chris Blackwood’s soil ecology lab, students are researching the ecological, biogeochemical, and microbial characteristics of different ecosystems in regards to their belowground properties. One such study focuses on the interactions between tree roots and a certain fungal community called mycorrhizae. These two very different groups require each other to survive and this discovered dependence has opened up a large field of study. The Blackwood lab currently has a large field experiment that examines this connected network. In order for our experiments to succeed, we must be able to identify the tree species that we are taking root samples from. This poster presents a possible way to identify tree species based off of their RFLP digested DNA profiles.