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Fire and the production of Astraeus odoratus (Basidiomycetes) sporocarps in deciduous dipterocarp-oak forests of northern Thailand

Keywords: Astraeus odoratus , deciduous dipterocarp-oak forest , ectomycorrhizal fungi

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Abstract:

The genus Astraeus (Diplocystidiaceae) forms ectomycorrhizal associations with many tree species and is a common gasteromycete in tropical and temperate ecosystems worldwide. In Thailand, Astraeus is most prevalent in deciduous dipterocarp-oak forest (DOF) in the north and north-east and its ecology is uniquely associated with fire. Rural villagers often burn the seasonally dry DOF ground vegetation causing significant environmental disturbance to promote the growth of Astraeus sporocraps—a local culinary delicacy and important source of household income. The purpose of this work is to investigate whether the practice of burning DOF stimulates the production of Astraeus sporocarps in DOF. Burned and unburned Astraeus habitat was surveyed over two years at two sites in Chiang Mai province and one site in Mae Hong Son province. Changes in soil fungi after a fire as well as vascular vegetation growing with Astraeus were studied. All sporocarps collected were identified as Astraeus odoratus. Astraeus sporocarps were found in both burned and unburned areas in 2010. In 2011, an unusually wet year, no sporocarps were found in burned or unburned areas. The top 2 cm of soil experienced high temperatures which killed fungi, but lower depths were well insulated from the heat. A wide range of vascular flora grew in Astraeus habitat, the most common tree species being Dipterocarpus tuberculatus var. tuberculatus and Dipterocarpus obtusifolius var. obtusifolius. This study shows that Astraeus can produce sporocarps without fire and future work can focus on more environmentally benign methods of harvesting this popular mushroom.

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