Chen Ning PhD Student

Major adviser: Gregory Mueller, PhD

Research Interests: Mycorrhizal fungal community, ectomycorrhizae, extracellular enzyme, subtropical forest, pine plantation

Current Research

Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi play a critical role in the diversity, function and renewal of terrestrial ecosystems. They form symbiotic relationships with host plants and receive a large, direct share of net primary productivity. In return they facilitate nutrient acquisition of the host plant by secreting groups of extracellular enzyme, protect their root system from microbial pathogens, and enhance their drought tolerance. Many trees such as those in Betulaceae, Pinaceae, Fagaceae, Myrtaceae, and Dipterocaraceae are important and obligate ECM plants, thus forming vast boreal, temperate and subtropical forests.

Moreover, for host specificity of some kind of ECM fungal species, land use change from native forest to exotic pine plantation can affect soil organic matter and result in quantitative and qualitative changes to soil C and N pools along with soil biological properties. Little is known regarding the likely consequences of these conversions on soil fungal communities, but conversion from mixed native forest to plantation monoculture is likely to exert an influence on ECM fungal diversity.

My doctoral research focuses on the ECM fungal community and functioning differences between exotic pine species (Pinus elliottii) and native species (Pinus massoniana Lamb) forests in south-central China. DNA barcoding including both Sanger and high-throughput Illumina sequencing are employed to identify the fungal species on the root tips and below ground soil. Also, micro-plate enzyme assay is used to measure the ecosystem function of species-level root tips. Whether the ECM community structures are different among different host trees and functioning differently, the combination of ECM species identification data, single root tip enzyme activities, ECM exploration type, and also the whole community structure will tell us the story.

Publications

Ning, C, G.M. Mueller, L.M. Egerton-Warburton, A.W. Wilson, W. Yan, W. Xiang. 2015. Functional response of ectomycorrhizal fungal community to nitrogen deposition on slash pine (Pinus elliottii) plantation in south-central China, Soil Biology and Biochemistry (submitted).

Ning, C. 2014. Functional response of ectomycorrhizal fungal community to nitrogen deposition on slash pine (Pinus elliottii) plantation in south-central China, M.S. Thesis, Northwestern University.

Honors and Awards

2014-2018 Government Scholarship, Chinese Scholarship Council