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Multi-year assessment of coastal planktonic fungi reveals environmental drivers of diversity and abundance.


Mycoplankton have so far been a neglected component of pelagic marine ecosystems, having been poorly studied relative to other plankton groups. Currently, there is a lack of understanding of how mycoplankton diversity changes through time, and the identity of controlling environmental drivers. Using Fungi-specific high-throughput sequencing and quantitative PCR analysis of plankton DNA samples collected over 6 years from the coastal biodiversity time series site Station L4 situated off Plymouth (UK), we have assessed changes in the temporal variability of mycoplankton diversity and abundance in relation to co-occurring environmental variables. Mycoplankton diversity at Station L4 was dominated by Ascomycota, Basidiomycota and Chytridiomycota, with several orders within these phyla frequently abundant and dominant in multiple years. Repeating interannual mycoplankton blooms were linked to potential controlling environmental drivers, including nitrogen availability and temperature. Specific relationships between mycoplankton and other plankton groups were also identified, with seasonal chytrid blooms matching diatom blooms in consecutive years. Mycoplankton α-diversity was greatest during periods of reduced salinity at Station L4, indicative of riverine input to the ecosystem. Mycoplankton abundance also increased during periods of reduced salinity, and when potential substrate availability was increased, including particulate organic matter. This study has identified possible controlling environmental drivers of mycoplankton diversity and abundance in a coastal sea ecosystem, and therefore sheds new light on the biology and ecology of an enigmatic marine plankton group. Mycoplankton have several potential functional roles, including saprotrophs and parasites, that should now be considered within the consensus view of pelagic ecosystem functioning and services.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 4 March 2016; doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.24.