Patchy Distributions and Distinct Niche Partitioning of Mycoplankton Populations across a Nearshore to Open Ocean Gradient.
Evidence increasingly suggests planktonic fungi (or mycoplankton) play an important role in marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles. In order to better understand their ecological role and how oceanographic gradients from the coastal to open ocean shape the mycoplankton community, molecular approaches were used to study fungal dynamics along a repeatedly sampled, five-station transect beginning at the mouth of an estuary and continuing 87 km across the continental shelf to the oligotrophic waters at the boundary of the Sargasso Sea. Similar to patterns in chlorophyll a
, fungal 18S rRNA gene abundance showed a sharp decrease from nearshore to offshore stations. While Shannon's diversity was not statistically different across the transect, nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination revealed that fungal communities at the nearshore station were significantly different from those at other stations. Even though spatial gradients were consistently strong, the shelf mycoplankton were more similar to those of the offshore communities when temperature was high (>20°C) and while they shifted toward the nearshore communities when temperature was low (<19°C), suggesting a role for additional seasonal factors (such as temperature) in shaping mycoplankton distributions. However, overall phylotype distributions were patchy with few taxa observed at all stations and the majority observed at a single station with the nearshore station exhibiting the largest number of exclusive phylotypes. Overall, our findings revealed the patchy spatial distributions and distinct niche partitioning of mycoplankton populations across a nearshore to open ocean gradient, which improved our understanding of fungal ecology in coastal waters. IMPORTANCE
Fungi are an important, but understudied, group of heterotrophic microbes in marine environments. Traditionally, fungi in the coastal ocean were largely assumed to be derived from terrestrial inputs. Yet here we find many fungal taxa are endemic to the open ocean environment but are rare or absent in nearshore waters, suggesting they are not washed into the ocean from the land. As observed for the bacterioplankton, coastal oceanographic gradients can function as habitat barriers to partition fungal communities. Compared to the bacterioplankton, however, the mycoplankton exhibit a much patchier distribution pattern, suggesting differential drivers and the potential for spatially/temporally limited habitats or strong density-dependent selection. Therefore, our results show that mycoplankton in the coastal ocean may play a significant but complementary role to that of the bacterioplankton.
Duan, Y; Xie, N; Wang, Z; Johnson, ZI; Hunt, DE; Wang, G
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