Fungal colonization in soils with different management histories: modeling growth in three-dimensional pore volumes

Alexandra Kravchenko, Ruth E. Falconer, Dmitri Grinev, Wilfred Otten*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite the importance of fungi in soil functioning they have received comparatively little attention and our understanding of fungal interactions and communities is lacking. This study aims to combine a physiologically based model of fungal growth with digitized images of internal pore volume of undisturbed soil samples from contrasting management practices to determine the effect of physical structure on fungal growth dynamics. We quantified pore geometries of the undisturbed soil samples from two contrasting agricultural practices, namely conventionally plowed (chisel plow) (CT) and no-till (NT), and from native vegetation land use, and taken out of production in 1989 (NS). Then we modeled invasion of a fungal species within the soil samples and evaluated the role of soil structure on the progress of fungal colonization of the soil pore space. The size of the studied pores was {greater than or equal to} 110 μm. The dynamics of fungal invasion was quantified through parameters of a mathematical model fitted to the fungal invasion curves. Results indicated that NT had substantially lower porosity and connectivity than CT and NS soils. E.g., the largest connected pore volume occupied 79 and 88% of pore space in CT and NS treatments, respectively, while it only occupied 45% in NT. Likewise, the proportion of pore space available to fungal colonization was much greater in NS and CT than in NT treatment and the dynamics of the fungal invasion differed among the treatments. The relative rate of fungal invasion at the onset of simulation was higher in NT samples, while the invasion followed a more sigmoidal pattern with relatively slow invasion rates at the initial time steps in NS and CT samples. Simulations allowed us to elucidate the contribution of physical structure to the rates and magnitudes of fungal invasion processes. It appeared that fragmented pore space disadvantaged fungal invasion in soils under long-term no-till, while large connected pores in soils under native vegetation or in tilled agriculture promoted the invasion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1202–1210
    Number of pages9
    JournalEcological Applications
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


    • 3D pore space
    • Conventional tillage
    • Fungal growth model
    • Native succession vegetation
    • No-till
    • X-ray micro-tomograpghy


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