Habitats and MapsThis project is a conceptual outgrowth of >16 years of research by PIs Henkel, Aime, and colleagues on the EM fungi associated with the EM tree genus Dicymbe (Fabaceae subfam. Detarioideae), which forms monodominant forests in South America’s Guiana Shield region. Expanding this research to the Guineo-Congolian rainforest of Central Africa is the logical next step in part because Dicymbe is closely related to tropical African detarioid EM tree genera including Gilbertiodendron, which also form monodominant forests (Peh et al. 2011a; Smith et al. 2011; Fig. 1). The primary research site is the Dja Biosphere Reserve, a protected area of nearly 600,000 ha in south-central Cameroon (Fig. 2). The Dja is characterized by lowland tropical rainforest of the Guineo-Congolian type (Mbolo, 2004; Sonke, 2004) and features extensive monodominant stands of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei (De Wild.) Leon, a large EM caesalpinioid canopy tree (Kouob 2009; Letouzey 1985). In addition to Gilbertiodendron forests, the Dja Reserve also features forests with mixed species assemblages of other EM caesalpinioids along with EM Uapaca spp. (Phyllanthaceae). A second research site is proposed in Korup National Park, a protected area of ~127,000 ha in southwestern Cameroon . The primary forests of Korup are rich in EM Caesalpinioideae (Newbery et al. 2013). In particular, co-dominant stands of EM canopy tree species in the caesalpinioid genera Microberlinia and Tetraberlinia are well-characterized ecologically (e.g. Norghauer & Newbery 2011; Newbery et al. 2004; Newbery & Gartlan 1996) but remain poorly characterized for their EM fungi (Tedersoo et al. 2011; Roberts 2000, 1999; Buyck et al. 1996; Watling 1993). The Dja Reserve provides one of the largest remaining blocks of primary Guineo-Congolian lowland rainforest (Mbolo 2004), yet is accessible from the capital city of Yaounde; this dimension is critical because repeated, extended field seasons over several years are ongoing to achieve robust inventories of EM fungi. EM host plants occur in various forest types and densities at sites across the Dja. In Korup National Park, the presence of the ecologically well-studied EM detarioid co-dominant groves. These sites represent refugia of African tropical rainforest during the last glacial maximum (Maley 1996), and may be historical reservoirs of regional biodiversity, including fungi.
Fieldwork at all sites entails access by 4×4 vehicle, hiking and portering, and establishment of base camp lab facilities. This approach is necessary given the remote nature of the field sites, but has proven effective for many previous studies of fungal systematics and ecology by PIs Henkel and Aime in remote areas of Guyana.
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