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Distribution and diversity of planktonic fungi in the West Pacific Warm Pool.

ABSTRACT

Fungi contribute substantially to biogeochemical cycles of terrestrial and marine habitats by decomposing matter and recycling nutrients. Yet, the diversity of their planktonic forms in the open ocean is poorly described. In this study, culture-independent and molecular approaches were applied to investigate fungal diversity and abundance derived from samples collected from a broad swath of the Pacific Warm Pool across major environmental gradients Our results revealed that planktonic fungi were molecularly diverse and their diversity patterns were related to major phytoplankton taxa and various nutrients including nitrate, nitrite, orthophosphate and silicic acid. Over 400 fungal phylotypes were recovered across this region and nearly half of them grouped into two major fungal lineages of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, whose abundance varied among stations. These results suggest that planktonic fungi are a diverse and integral component of the marine microbial community and should be included in future marine microbial ecosystem models.