Mycorrhizal partners of Diphasiastrum spp. – are fungi involved in a nutrient network?

Duration of the project

01.07.2020. - 15.11.2020.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

Life Sciences Center, Vilnius University
Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, University of Greifswald

Project Manager

Dr. Radvile Rimgaile-Voicik

Project goals

We want to identify possible players of the fungal web in endangered mycotrophic plants, focusing on the oldest extant land plants (genus Diphasiastrum, flat-branched club mosses). Via metabarcoding and next-generation sequencing we will compare fungal diversity in: 1) clubmoss gametophytes and sporophytes, 2) free soil, and 3) green plants (namely pine and blueberries) in a nutrient poor lichen-pine forest in southern Lithuania. Clubmosses have stable populations in southern Lithuania, but are highly endangered in Germany. A likely reason is their complicated biology: spores germinate into a haploid, subterranean gametophyte (the first life stage) which entirely depends from mycorrhizal fungi. The Lithuanian partner developed a method to detect gametophytes (Rimgaile-Voicik et al. 2015, Pol J Ecol 66:311–324). The status of the three clubmoss species that occur in Lithuania was clarified by a joint work using independent molecular markers (Schnittler, Rimgaile-Voicik et al. 2019, Mol Phyl Evol 131:181-192), which confirmed results from earlier DNA measurements via flow cytometry (Bennert et al. 2011, Ann Bot 108:867-876). Work in Germany identified a possible mycorrhizal partner of clubmoss gametophytes that belongs to an ancient group of basidiomycetes (Sebacinales group B, Horn et al. 2013, Amer J Bot 100:1-17).

Main activities and venues

  1. Identification of suitable sampling plots in Lithuania, Varėna District, Vilnius University field station in Puvočiai (July 2020), using data from two joint field trips (2016, 2017) in the investigation region (Varena, Lithuania) to identify and map clubmoss stands. This is done by the Lithuanian project partner and can be carried out without problems
  2. Student field trip with participants from Vilnius and Greifswald universities to sample plant roots and soil from the selected plots, Vilnius University field station in Puvočiai (End of September 2020). In case of ongoing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemics, the sampling will be done by the Lithuanian partner only, and samples will be send for laboratory analysis via mail. In this case, we will document the sampling plots more extensively by photos, which will be evaluated in a joint online-seminar by both sides.
  3. Joint work for DNA extraction and preparation of samples for metabarcoding, Greifswald (October 2020). According to the rules this can be done with some restrictions (max. two persons involved in simultaneous lab work).

Direct and indirect target groups


members of Prof. Martin Schnittler and Dr. Radvile Rimgaile-Voicik research groups (up to 20 persons), teaching staff and students (up to 20 persons) of the involved partner universities at BSc and MSc level.


employees of Life Science Center (Vilnius, Lithuania) and University Greifswald, Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology. In addition, the whole scientific community would benefit upon the dissemination of research results (via a scientific publication). Opportunities for further cooperation would be joint MSc thesis works based on data collected.