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Identification and distribution of Armillaria species associated with an oak decline event in the Arkansas Ozarks

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Forests in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas recently experienced a widespread oak decline event. Armillaria, a root rot fungus, has been associated with other oak decline events and may have been an important contributing factor to tree mortality in this event. Although Armillaria has been identified from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, it has never been investigated in the Arkansas Ozarks. Molecular diagnostic techniques were used in this study to identify species of Armillaria present on roots removed from dead trees of two common oak species, northern red oak, Quercus rubra L., and white oak, Q. alba L., from three geographic areas and on three topographic positions – ridges, south- and west-facing benches. Armillaria(A. mellea, A. gallica or A. tabescens) was identified from 31% of root samples taken from 102 trees in seven of nine sample plots. Armillaria mellea, occurred most often (20 samples, both oak species on seven plots) followed by A. gallica (10 samples, northern red oak only on four plots), and A. tabescens occurred twice (on northern red oak in a single plot). Thus, all three Armillaria species occurred on northern red oaks while A. mellea was the only species recovered from white oaks. Results varied by topographic position with samples from tree roots on ridges having the fewest positive identifications, one of 29. West-facing benches had the highest positive samples with 20 of 41 testing positive and trees on south-facing benches were intermediate with 11 of 32 samples from infected trees. This study documents the occurrence of three species of Armillaria in the Arkansas Ozarks and their association with oak mortality resulting from an oak decline event coupled with a red oak borer, Enaphalodes rufulus, outbreak. Further, it documents some potential variation in host/pathogen combinations and forest site conditions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: (for correspondence), Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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