Fungi play a major role in forest functioning by regulating the process of litter decomposition and nutrient release and are sensitive to management practices. Species richness and abundance of fungi in surface soil and decaying leaf litter of Quercus serratawere compared between a subtropical natural mixed oak forest and a managed oak plantation in the eastern Himalayan region. During 12 months of study a total of 106 fungal species were isolated from soil by dilution plate method and decomposing litter by leaf dilution, washed disk and moist chamber methods. Month of samplings and study sites influenced the species composition of soil and litter fungi. Total species richness of soil fungi was significantly (P < 0.05) lower during different seasons in managed plantation than in the natural forest. Dominant soil colonizers from both sites were: Cladosporium cladosporioides, Clonostachys rosea f. catenulata, Fusarium oxysporum, Penicillium indonesiae, Penicillium turbatum, Trichoderma sp. and Trichoderma koningii. Different soil and litter fungi showed differential seasonal preferences at two study sites. Type of fungal species recovered from leaf litters was influenced by the isolation method. Total number of litter fungi isolated from both sites was broadly similar, whereas the species compositions were different. Litter fungi between the two sites showed the highest similarity index in winter, while the similarity of soil fungi was high during summer. The management practices at plantation site had no significant effect on species richness of litter fungi although soil fungal diversity was significantly reduced indicating the role of intensive management practices on soil fungal population.
Key words: Fungal diversity, species richness, soil, litter, natural oak forest, managed plantation, Northeastern India.
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