This wiki site has been created to provide further information on our project focusing on the diversity and ecology of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the African Guineo-Congolian rainforest.
Our focus is on putatively ectomycorrhizal fungi, namely fleshy terrestrial mushrooms that belong to groups with well-established ectomycorrhizal associations elsewhere (e.g., boletes, chanterelles, amanitas, russulas, etc.), although we also collect more broadly in an attempt to capture as much of the diversity as possible. So far, we are conducting an in-depth inventory of fungi associated with ectomycorrhizal legumes (especially Gilbertiodendron dewevrei), as well as Uapaca spp. Our project is based in the Dja Reserve in south-central Cameroon.
The rainforest of the Congo basin in Central Africa is the second largest continuous tract of tropical rainforest in the world. One distinctive element of this rainforest is the dominance of caesalpinioid legumes, which can form monodominant and codominant stands over large areas (Corlett & Primack 2011). These caesalpinioid legumes are known to form a special type of mycorrhizal mutualism with certain fungi, known as ectomycorrhizae. This mutualism involves an exchange of photosynthetic sugars produced by the plants for water, minerals, and protection from the fungi, a symbiosis that is critical to both partners. This specialized ectomycorrhizal (EcM) mutualism may help to explain their success and mono- or codominance in the Congo rainforest and other tropical regions where EcM legumes thrive (e.g. Dicymbe-dominated forests in the Guiana Shield of South America; Hart et al. 1989, 1995; Henkel et al 2003).
One of these EcM legumes, Gilbertiodendron dewevrei, forms extensive monodominant stands over vast areas of tropical Central and West Africa (White and Abernethy 1997). In Cameroon, this extensive forest type dominates a large area southeast of Yaoundé, mainly in the Dja Biosphere Reserve (Jean Michel Onana, pers. comm.), a 500,000 hectare UNESCO World Heritage site characterized by virgin dense, evergreen Congo rainforest.
Field Sites and Habitats
The Dja Reserve is a 500,000 hectare tract of mostly primary rainforest, and is host to large megafauna including elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, and leopards. In future, we hope to expand our survey work to Korup National Park, as well as other areas in the Guineo-Congolian region.
This work has been generously supported through grants from the Bentham-Moxon Trust to BD and the National Geographic Society to TH. We are grateful to the ECOFAC staff for facilitating fieldwork at the Dja Reserve and to Dr Jean-Michel Onana for help with arranging permits.