Aquatic Fungi Study In Lake Stechlin Assesses Habitat Diversity

By on November 3, 2016

Lake Stechlin. (Public Domain)

Fungi species seem to get overlooked in scientific investigations, and most of the millions out there are still left undescribed despite their importance for carbon cycling. In freshwater systems, though there are fewer aquatic fungi species (around 3,000), this lack of understanding still persists.

In a recently published investigation, scientists led by those at Berlin’s Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, have tried to alleviate some of the gap. Their 2010 work on Lake Stechlin, in northeast Germany, reveals new finds on the types of habitats that aquatic fungi in the lake prefer and will aid future researchers.

Scientists visited the lake three times over the spring and summer of 2010, taking 216 samples from more than 50 locations. The aim was to test how habitat specificity affects the fungal community and whether fungal groups would reflect the availability of particulate organic matter in substrate.

Unlike previous studies of aquatic fungi that compared water samples among different lakes or seasons, the investigation at Lake Stechlin compared the diversity among habitats within only the lake itself. This included a look at fungi living in the water and sediments, as well as fungi living on the surfaces of plants and animals.

Scientists found that every type of habitat, including sediments, biofilms and large aquatic plants, has a specific fungal community that varies most. Of those, lake biofilms, representing a group of micro-organisms whose cells stick to one another and cling to a surface, turned out to be hotspot destinations for aquatic fungi.

“Our study provides a first estimate of lake-wide fungal diversity and highlights the important contribution of habitat heterogeneity to overall diversity and community composition,” researchers write in the open-access study published in MycoKeys. “Habitat diversity should be considered in any sampling strategy aiming to assess the fungal diversity of a water body.”

Top image: Lake Stechlin. (Public Domain)

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