Orchid-fungi specificity in endemic orchid species from central coast of Chile

Cristian Atala Bianchi
Cristian Atala Bianchi
Coastal area of central Chile
project abstract

Central Chile is part of a global biodiversity hotspot. This Mediterranean ecosystem includes many endemic sclerophyllous plants. It’s currently threatened since it is the most densely-populated area of the country and an agriculture center. This area has the highest diversity of vascular plants, and is the center of diversity of some genera such as the orchid genus Chloraea. Some Chilean orchid species are critically endangered and urgent actions are needed to ensure their long-term conservation. Chilean orchids are terrestrial and associate with mycorrhizal fungi (usually Rhizoctonia-type) that are key for their germination and their subsequent growth and survival. To establish propagation, conservation and restoration programs of Chilean orchids, a full understanding of the diversity and distribution of their fungal partners is required. In particular, we require an understanding of orchid-fungi specificity, since rare and/or endangered orchids could be restricted by the presence of specific orchid fungi in the soil. In this project, we aim to understand the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil close to different orchid species found in a latitudinal gradient in Central Chile and to compare this diversity with the fungal species that can be found inside the root system of the plants.