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Elucidating the phoretic blue-stain fungal community of root-feeding beetles in Georgia using a metabarcoding approach
Megan Buland - D.B. Warnell School of Forestry, University of Georgia. Kamal Gandhi- D.B. Warnell School of Forestry, University of Georgia, Kier Klepzig- Jospeh W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Brittany Barnes- D.B. Warnell School of Forestry, University of Georgia, Caterina Villari- D.B. Warnell School of Forestry, Uni

In recent decades, blue-stain Grosmannia species and their root-feeding beetle vectors have been associated with areas of loblolly pine mortality in the Piedmont region of Georgia; however, their potential role in host mortality is unestablished. With this study, we aim to 1) determine the phenology of loblolly pine associated root-feeding beetles in Georgia, 2) assess the blue-stain fungi community associated with these beetles and whether this association varies in stands with differing management practices and across seasons. Root-feeding beetles were live trapped in two loblolly pine stands with differing management histories (regularly prescribed burned or unburned), from May 2017 to October 2018. Across vectors, abundance varied over time and peak catches within a species occurred at similar times in both stands. Preliminary fungal isolations detected G. profanum, G. huntii and G. alacris. While the latter two have been previously associated with loblolly pine, G. profanum is unexpected, as the fungus was thought to only occur on hardwoods, and not believed to be beetle vectored. To elucidate the whole blue-stain fungal community associated with each vector species, including fungi potentially overlooked using traditional isolation methods, a subset of beetle vectors has been analyzed with a metabarcoding approach, using the ß-tubulin gene as target region. Results of this study will lay the groundwork for future understanding of this system in the Piedmont.