The role of chitin in the decomposition of ectomycorrhizal fungal litter

Christopher W. Fernandez, Roger T. Koide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Ectomycorrhizal fungal tissues comprise a significant forest-litter pool. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi may also influence the decomposition of other forest-litter components via competitive interactions with decomposer fungi and by ensheathing fine roots. Because of these direct and indirect effects of ectomycorrhizal fungi, the factors that control the decomposition of EM fungi will strongly control forest-litter decomposition as a whole and, thus, ecosystem nutrient and carbon cycling. Some have suggested that chitin, a component of fungal cell walls, reduces fungal tissue decomposition because it is relatively recalcitrant. We therefore examined the change in chitin concentrations of EM fungal tissues during decomposition. Our results show that chitin is not recalcitrant relative to other compounds in fungal tissues and that its concentration is positively related to the decomposition of fungal tissues. Variation existing among EM fungal isolates in chitin concentration suggests that EM fungal community structure influences C and nutrient cycling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-28
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chitin
  • Decomposition
  • Ecosystem function
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi
  • Litter recalcitrance
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Soil carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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