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University of Tartu
Plant Ecology Laboratory
employee Maarja Öpik Tartu,, Estonia

PhD Maarja Öpik

Senior Research Fellow
Maarja.Opik [ at ]


The main focus of my research is molecular detection and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (Phylum Glomeromycota). I am developing DNA sequence-based nomenclatural system for Glomeromycota 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).

I apply the virtual taxon system to investigate diversity patterns of AM fungi from local to global spatial scales. I am asking in my research, which factors determine AM fungal diversity: abiotic (physical, chemical, climatic, spatio-temporal) and/or biotic (incl. host ecological groups). I am also interested in functional properties of AM fungi: are all fungal species compatible with all host species, or do some fungi affect plant growth and overall performance more than others. I also look at how land use affects diversity and functioning of AM fungi and which are the ways to use these fungi in vegetation restoration, sustainable agriculture etc.

I am editor in the journal New Phytologist.

Current projects:

I am currently participating in the institutional grant from the Ministry of Education and Research ‘The role of arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) in shaping plant community patterns and plant interactions’ (2014-2019, PI Martin Zobel).

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

I am supervising PhD students Martti Vasar, Siim-Kaarel Sepp and Tanel Vahter.

Selected publications: 

  • 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., Zobel, M., Cantero, J.J., Davison, J., Facelli, J.M., Hiiesalu, I., Jairus, T., Kalwij, J.M., Koorem, K., Leal, M.E., Liira, J., Metsis, M., Neshataeva, V., Paal, J., Phosri, C., Põlme, S., Reier, Ü., Saks, Ü., Schimann, H., Thiéry, O., Vasar, M., Moora, M. 2013. Global sampling of plant roots expands the described molecular diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhiza 23: 411-430.
  • Thiéry, O., Moora, M., Vasar, M., Zobel, M. Öpik, M. 2012. Inter- and intrasporal nuclear ribosomal gene sequence variation within one isolate of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus, Diversispora sp. Symbiosis 58: 135-147.
  • 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
  • Öpik, M., Metsis, M., Daniell, T.J., Zobel, M., Moora, M. 2009. Large-scale parallel 454 sequencing reveals host ecological group specificity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in a boreonemoral forest. New Phytologist 184: 424-437.
  • Öpik, M., Moora, M., Liira, J., Zobel, M. 2006. Composition of root-colonizing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in different ecosystems around the globe. Journal of Ecology 94: 778-790.