Assessment of the microbiome associated with endangered orchids
The Orchidaceae (orchid family) is perhaps the most speciose group of flowering plants with approximately 25,000 described species and many thousands of hybrids. While certain mycorrhizal fungi are required for orchids to germinate, these mycorrhizae form just part of a microbial community that interacts with the plant. In this study, we sought a broader picture of the microbiome associated with these plants. A major motivation for our work is the concern that the gaps in our understanding of orchid microbiomes might have important consequences when decisions are made in the management of species of conservation concern. Because of the complexity of their symbiotic interactions, orchids are particularly at risk when faced with habitat loss or the potential effects of climate change. We studied two species of endangered terrestrial orchids in Missouri and, using DNA collected from soil and high throughput sequencing, evaluated the bacterial microbiome associated with these two orchid species.