Master of Science (MS)
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plant-fungal interactions, orchid ecology, conservation, urban landscape
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Starting in the late 1800’s orchids were heavily poached, leaving many species to reach critically low numbers. Coupled with habitat loss and urbanization many orchid populations were extirpated in southern Florida. Due to lack of endosperm, orchid seeds are reliant on specific mycorrhizal fungi to obtain nutrients to enable growth and development resulting in very low germination rates in nature. The obligate relationship on mycorrhizal fungi complicates orchid re-establishment. The research project aims are (1) to evaluate the correlation between phenotypic traits and optimal growing conditions in various micro-climate, and (2) to assess the range of mycorrhizal fungi community in urban and botanic garden settings. Naturally occurring and lab propagated out-plants of the south Florida native orchid, Encyclia tampensis, were sampled at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), Naples Botanical Garden (NBG) and Downtown Doral Park (DDP) on oak, cypress, and palm trees. Data was collected on chlorophyll content, light intensity, height on the tree, number of leaves, root and shoot lengths as well as root fungi sampling for fungal isolations and DNA identification was conducted. Increased SPAD and NDVI values measuring chlorophyll content as a plant health parameter were observed at FTBG, while DDP and NBG had comparable values indicating the suitability of botanic gardens and urban spaces as orchid reintroduction sites. Across all 3 sites and host trees, the beneficial fungi Tulasnella was recovered within two distinct clades. The results of this study will help maximize current conservation and reintroduction programs in orchids within urban areas and botanical gardens for best management practices.
Garcia, Ellen, "Conservation of South Florida Orchid Mycorrhizal Fungi" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4736.
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