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employee Maarja Öpik Tartu,, Estonia

PhD Maarja Öpik

Professor in molecular ecology, head of the molecular ecology working group
Maarja.Opik [ at ] 

J. Liivi st. 2- 617

The main focus of my research has been the molecular detection and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (subphylum Glomeromycotina). I have been at the forefront of molecular AM fungal research by developing DNA sequence-based nomenclatural system for Glomeromycotina with the goal to link the specimen (culture-) originating and environmental sequence information. This system of virtual taxa (VT) is implemented in the database MaarjAM, which collates published information about Glomeromycota sequences and related metadata (location, host, habitat information). Our team continues developing the system, as the data volumes and types continuously progress.

With the Virtual Taxon tool in our hands and accumulating ecological content of MaarjAM database, we look into the lives of AM fungi in natural and (strongly) human impacted habitats, in interaction with other micro-and macro-organisms and in relation to the functioning of the ecosystems.

On the applied side, we are exploring how to make use of AM fungi and soil biota for restoring vegetation, for directing succession of vegetation and in sustainable agricultural production. Much of this research happens in collaboration with our research partners and partners in the field.


I contribute as academic editor for the journals New Phytologist, Fungal Ecology, IMA Fungus and Plant and Soil.

Current projects:

Centre of Excellence EcolChange

PRIA-funded innovation cluster MTÜ Põllukultuuride klaster

Biodiversa 3 project SoilMan (Ecosystem services driven by the diversity of soil biota – understanding and management)

My full CV and publication list are available at the Estonian Research Information System.

I am currently supervising or co-supervising PhD students Tanel Vahter, Siqiao Liu and Yiming Meng.

Selected publications: 

  • Vasar M, Davison J, Neuenkamp L, Sepp S-K, Young JPW, Moora M & Öpik M. (2021), User-friendly bioinformatics pipeline gDAT (graphical downstream analysis tool) for analysing rDNA sequences. Molecular Ecology Resources.
  • Davison J, León DG de, Zobel M, Moora M, Bueno CG, Barceló M, Gerz M, León D, Meng Y, Pillar VD, …, Öpik M. 2020. Plant functional groups associate with distinct arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities. New Phytologist 1111/nph.16423.
  • Vahter T, Bueno CG, Davison J, Herodes K, Hiiesalu I, Kasari-Toussaint L, Oja J, Olsson PA, Sepp S-K, Zobel M, Vasar M, Öpik M. 2020. Co-introduction of native mycorrhizal fungi and plant seeds accelerates restoration of post-mining landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology
  • Garcia de León D, Vahter T, Zobel M, Koppel M, Edesi L, Davison J, Al-Quraishy S, Hozzein WN, Moora M, Oja J, Vasar M, Öpik M. 2020. Different wheat cultivars exhibit variable responses to inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from organic and conventional farms. PLOS ONE 15: e0233878.
  • Sepp S-K, Davison J, Jairus T, Vasar M, Moora M, Zobel M, Öpik M2019. Non-random association patterns in a plant-mycorrhizal fungal network reveal host-symbiont specificity. Molecular Ecology 28: 365–378.
  • Bruns TD, Corradi N, Redecker D, Taylor JW, Öpik M2018. Glomeromycotina: what is a species and why should we care? New Phytologist 220: 963–967.
  • Vasar M, Andreson R, Davison J, Jairus T, Moora M, Remm M, Young JPW, Zobel M, Öpik M2017. Increased sequencing depth does not increase captured diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhiza 27: 761–773.
  • Thiery O, Vasar M, Jairus T, Davison J, Roux C, Kivistik PA, Metspalu A, Milani L, Saks Ü, Moora M, …, Öpik M. 2016. Sequence variation in nuclear ribosomal small subunit, internal transcribed spacer and large subunit regions of Rhizophagus irregularis and Gigaspora margarita is high and isolate-dependent. Molecular Ecology 25: 2816–2832.
  • Davison, J., Moora, M., Öpik, M., Adholeya, A., Ainsaar, L., Bâ, A., Burla, S., Diedhiou, A.G., Hiiesalu, I., Jairus, T., Johnson, N.C., Kane,A., Koorem, K., Kochar, M., Ndiaye, C., Pärtel, M., Reier, Ü., Saks, Ü., Singh, R., Vasar, M., Zobel M. 2015. Global assessment of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus diversity reveals very low endemism. Science 349: 970-973.
  • Öpik, M., Vanatoa, A., Vanatoa, E., Moora, M., Davison, J., Kalwij, J.M., Reier, Ü., Zobel, M. 2010. The online database MaarjAM reveals global and ecosystemic distribution patterns in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Glomeromycota). New Phytologist 188: 223-241