Pyrophilous fungi detected after wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park expand known species ranges and biodiversity estimates

Karen W. Hughes, P. Brandon Matheny, Andrew N. Miller, Ronald H. Petersen, Teresa M. Iturriaga, Kristine D. Johnson, Andrew S. Methven, Daniel B. Raudabaugh, Rachel A. Swenie, Thomas D. Bruns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following a late fall wildfire in 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, pyrophilous fungi in burn zones were documented over a 2-y period with respect to burn severity and phenology. Nuc rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 = ITS) barcodes were obtained to confirm morphological evaluations. Forty-one taxa of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota were identified from burn sites and categorized as fruiting only in response to fire or fruiting enhanced by fire. Twenty-two species of Pezizales (Ascomycota) were among the earliest to form ascomata in severe burn zones, only one of which had previously been documented in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nineteen species of Basidiomycota, primarily Agaricales, were also documented. Among these, only five species (Coprinellus angulatus, Gymnopilus decipiens, Lyophyllum anthracophilum, Pholiota carbonicola, and Psathyrella pennata) were considered to be obligate pyrophilous taxa, but fruiting of two additional taxa (Hygrocybe conica and Mycena galericulata) was clearly enhanced by fire. Laccaria trichodermophora was an early colonizer of severe burn sites and persisted through the winter of 2017 and into spring and summer of 2018, often appearing in close association with Pinus pungens seedlings. Fruiting of pyrophilous fungi peaked 4–6 mo post fire then diminished, but some continued to fruit up to 2.5 y after the fire. In all, a total of 27 previously unrecorded taxa were added to the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) database (~0.9%). Most pyrophilous fungi identified in this study are either cosmopolitan or have a Northern Hemisphere distribution, but cryptic endemic lineages were detected in Anthracobia and Sphaerosporella. One new combination, Hygrocybe spadicea var. spadicea f. odora, is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-698
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 3 2020


  • 1 new taxon
  • Pezizomycotina
  • cryptic species
  • disturbance
  • ectomycorrhiza
  • endophytes
  • fire ecology
  • taxonomic diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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