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Undergraduate Arts and Research Showcase


Microorganisms living within plants play crucial roles in their health and function, yet these diverse communities that make up the plant microbiome remain poorly understood. The dune grass Ammophila breviligulata. is an ecosystem engineer which helps to build and stabilize dune ecosystems effectively acting as a buffer against storms to coastal communities. It is currently unknown whether the Ammophila microbiome plays a role in this plant species’ ability to transform dune ecosystems.. In this study, we assessed fungal diversity of endophytes—microbes living within plant tissues— in Ammophila leaves collected from Leelanau State Park, MI along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. We censused endophytes from Ammophila plants growing in plant communities that differed in total number of other neighboring plant species to understand how plant richness affected colonization rates and fungal diversity. Fungal species were grouped based on morphotypes using a cultural-based approach. We found relatively low endophytic fungal colonization and low diversity within Ammophila leaves .Additionally we found no trend between richness of neighboring plant species and fungal diversity in Ammophila. Our findings raise intriguing questions about the nature and function of the endophyte community in Ammophila, considering the potential implications for dune ecosystem stability and plant health. Further research into the specific roles and interactions of these endophytes are warranted to clarify their contributions to the ecological role Ammophila plays and its resilience in coastal environments. Understanding these microbial partnerships can inform conservation and management strategies aimed at preserving critical dune systems and their protective role in coastal communities.