Ectomycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships between soil fungi and higher plants. Evidence of the symbiosis is the presence of a ‘mantle,’ a hyphal layer that covers root tips, and a change in root morphology. The potential use of ectomycorrhizal mantles as hydrology indicators for wetland determinations was evaluated on the Delmarva Coastal Plain (Delaware and eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia, USA) over three seasons. In theory, the distribution of mantles with soil depth should vary from uplands to wetlands in most years, as mantle development is considered to be impeded by anaerobic conditions. At four forested locations, plots were set up in seasonally-saturated wetlands and adjacent uplands and drained wetlands (twelve sub-sites). Plots were evaluated according to the Corps of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual for soils, plant community, and hydrology to identify a jurisdictional classification. Hydrology was further addressed using automated monitoring wells (twice daily readings), and anaerobic conditions were confirmed via platinum electrodes. Plant roots (Pinus taeda was targeted) were sampled via spade slices in March and August each year and separated by depth: O horizon, 0–5 cm, 5– 10 cm, 10–15 cm, and 15–20 cm. Roots were evaluated for the presence of mantles. A threshold depth of 5 cm was identified. From a total of 892 roots with mantles in uplands (including effectively-drained wetland sub-sites), 253 (28%) were found below the threshold depth. For wetlands (including one ineffectively-drained wetland), seven of 331 roots with mantles (2%) were found below the threshold depth. Temporal and spatial variability in mantle data was common; however, mantles consistently occurred at greater depths where seasonally high water tables were lower. We concluded that mantle depth has potential as a hydrology indicator.
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Vol. 24 • No. 4