Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Natural Resources and the Environment

Program or Major

Environmental Conservation and Sustainability

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Andrew Ouimette


Terrestrial ecosystems make up the largest carbon pool with a major portion of that being forests. With carbon being a major concern due to global climate change, being able to make accurate models is increasingly important. Studies have shown that trees may allocate up to 50% of their photosynthetically fixed carbon underground; however these values haven’t been accurately quantified and underground carbon allocation has been historically overlooked. Mycorrhizal fungi may be a large portion of underground carbon allocation, as they have a symbiotic relationship with trees where they provide the plant with water and nutrients in return for sugars (carbon). New methods and knowledge will allow us to quantify carbon allocation and fungal biomass. Ergosterol is a biomarker that is the human equivalent of cholesterol for fungi which can be used to measure fungal biomass. Since both free-living and mycorrhizal fungi have ergosterol, a series of open and closed cores located at Bartlett Experimental Forest will separate the amount of ergosterol due to free-living versus mycorrhizal fungi. This is one of the first studies that will quantify fungal biomass and carbon allocation under a variation of natural settings and compare two different methods to estimate these values.