Soil ergosterol transect Dalton Highway Alaska 2007


The data set describes soil ergosterol concentration, which is unique to fungal membranes., from an Alaska transect . The soil samples from Alaska were collected in a trip from north to south along the Dalton Highway. north of the Yukon River.

Project Keywords: 

Data set ID: 


EML revision ID: 

Published on EDI/LTER Data Portal


Drossman, H., Hobbie, J., Hobbie, E. 2011. Soil ergosterol transect Dalton Highway Alaska 2007 Environmental Data Initiative.

Date Range: 

Monday, June 7, 2004 to Saturday, June 12, 2004

Publication Date: 



The method , the complete references, and the Alaska results are described in Hobbie, J. E., E. A. Hobbie, H. Drossman, M. Conte, J. C. Weber, J. Shamhart, and M. Weinrobe. 2009. Mycorrhizal fungi supply nitrogen to host plants in Arctic tundra and boreal forests: N-15 is the key signal. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 55:84-94. Methods used are in de Ridder-Duine, A. S., Smant, W., van der Wal, A., van Veen, J. A., and de Boer, W. 2006. Evaluation of a simple, non-alkaline extraction protocol to quantify soil ergosterol. Pedobiologia, 50: 293-300.
Bååth, E. 2001. Estimation of fungal growth rates in soil using 14C-acetate incorporation into ergosterol. Soil Biol. Biochem. 33: 2011-2018.

Methods for ergosterol in 2007
Sampling. In 2007, a 10-20 cm deep, 6 cm diameter core was taken at a representative site next to known ectomycorrhizal plants. After collection, soil samples were immediately placed on ice and frozen within six hours. In the laboratory, each core from the 2007 transect was thawed and sectioned into three approximately equal depth organic layers and two approximately equal depth mineral layers for analysis of ergosterol, soil moisture, and soil organic matter.
Ergosterol. This fungal-specific sterol, a component of the cell membrane, estimates living fungal biomass in soils. We modified the saponification methods described by Bååth (2001) and de Ridder-Duine et al. (2006) for HPLC quantification of ergosterol. In the laboratory, thawed samples were sectioned by horizon (e.g., organic and mineral), each layer sub-sectioned by depth, and each subsection sieved (2 mm screen). Duplicate or triplicate sub-samples (0.5 g) of the sieved soil fractions were saponified by heating for 90 min at 70C in 2 ml of methanol and 0.5 ml of 2 M NaOH after brief vortex mixing. After cooling, 1 ml methanol and 3 ml pentane were added and samples vortex-mixed for 20 s. Samples were centrifuged briefly to eliminate emulsions and the upper pentane phase, containing ergosterol, was collected. The pentane addition, extraction and centrifugation was repeated twice more, but with 2 ml pentane per extraction step. The pentane (upper) phase was collected and combined with previous extracts. The combined pentane extracts were dried under nitrogen flow, dissolved in 1.0 ml methanol, filtered through a 0.45 μm pore size PTFE syringe filter (Millipore, Corporation, Billerica, Massachusetts, USA) and injected into a Waters Acquity UPLC system with a binary solvent manager, a sample manager, and a photodiode array detector (PDA) (Waters Corporation, Milford, Massachusetts, USA). Separation was on an Acquity UPLC BEH C18 1.7 micron pore size, 2.1 x 50 mm reverse phase column maintained at 40C. A 5 µl injection of each extract was eluted with 92% methanol-8% water at a flow rate of 0.5 ml min−1. Using Millenium software (Waters) the UV spectrum of the ergosterol peak at ~2 min was compared with standard ergosterol (Fluka Company, St. Louis, Missouri, USA) and was quantified at 282 nm with calibration standards in the range of 0.05 – 20 ppm. Calibration provided linear fit (r2 > 0.999) with standards in all runs with a limit of detection (S/N 3:1) of ~ 30 ppb. Spike recoveries determined by the method of de Ridder-Duine et al. (2006) are 82±4%, in agreement with prior literature values (Bååth 2001). Variance for duplicate or triplicate samples resulting from sample inhomogeneity, extraction, and instrumental sources were generally less than 5% and are calculated as standard deviation for each sample.
Soil moisture was determined gravimetrically on a separate sub-sample by drying to constant weight. Soil organic matter was calculated from the loss in mass of the dry soil after heating at 500C for 12 hours.
Fungal biomass. Several conversion factors have been used to calculate fungal biomass from ergosterol. Montgomery et al. (2000) proposed a factor of 4 mg fungal biomass per µg ergosterol based on a calibration with six species of cultured saprotrophic fungi while Salmanowicz and Nylund (1988) proposed a factor of 3 mg fungal biomass per µg ergosterol based on cultures of three different species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. We followed Clemmensen et al. (2006) and used 3 mg µg-1 as this reflects the fungal taxa most commonly observed at our sampling sites.

Version Changes: 

Version1: 3Jan2011. Data submitted JimL
Version2: 21Sept11 Updated to new metadata form. Jim
Version 3: Updated to newer metadata with site sheet. CH March 2013.
Version 4: Check keywords against LTER controlled list. JimL 11Feb14
Version 5: Changed Distrubution URL since the LTER network DAS system is being discontinued. JimL 9Apr2015

Sites sampled.

Full Metadata and data files (either comma delimited (csv) or Excel) - Environmental Data Initiative repository.

Use of the data requires acceptance of the data use policy --> Arctic LTER Data Use Policy