Microbial Ecology

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 358–369 | Cite as

Nutrient Enrichment Alters Salt Marsh Fungal Communities and Promotes Putative Fungal Denitrifiers

  • Patrick J. Kearns
  • Ashley N. Bulseco-McKim
  • Helen Hoyt
  • John H. Angell
  • Jennifer L. BowenEmail author
Fungal Microbiology


Enrichment of ecosystems with excess nutrients is occurring at an alarming rate and has fundamentally altered ecosystems worldwide. Salt marshes, which lie at the land-sea interface, are highly effective at removing anthropogenic nutrients through the action of macrophytes and through microbial processes in coastal sediments. The response of salt marsh bacteria to excess nitrogen has been documented; however, the role of fungi and their response to excess nitrogen in salt marsh sediments is not fully understood. Here, we document the response of salt marsh fungal communities to long-term excess nitrate in four distinct marsh habitats within a northern temperate marsh complex. We show that salt marsh fungal communities varied as a function of salt marsh habitat, with both fungal abundance and diversity increasing with carbon quantity. Nutrient enrichment altered fungal communities in all habitats through an increase in fungal abundance and the proliferation of putative fungal denitrifiers. Nutrient enrichment also altered marsh carbon quality in low marsh surface sediments where fungal response to nutrient enrichment was most dramatic, suggesting nutrient enrichment can alter organic matter quality in coastal sediments. Our results indicate that fungi, in addition to bacteria, likely play an important role in anaerobic decomposition of salt marsh sediment organic matter.


Salt marsh Fungal ecology Fungal denitrification Nutrient enrichment Decomposition 



We would like to thank researchers of the TIDE Project (NSF DEB 0924287, DEB 0923689, DEB 0213767, DEB 1354494, DEB 1353140, and DEB 1719621) for maintaining the site and nutrient enrichment experiment. We would also like to thank Sarah Feinman and members of the Bowen lab for their help in field collections. FT-IR analysis was performed at the Woods Hole Research Center in the lab of Jonathan Sanderman. Additional support was received from the Plum Island LTER (NSF OCE 1673630, 0423565, 1058747). All sequence data from this study is available in the Sequence Read Archive under accession number SRP100756.

Funding Information

This work was funded by the NSF awards DEB 1350491 and DEB 1353140 to JLB and an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Award DBI-1359241 to Dr. Rachel Skvirsky.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

248_2018_1223_MOESM1_ESM.docx (369 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 368 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Marine Science CenterNortheastern UniversityNahantUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyCarleton CollegeNorthfieldUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  5. 5.Biology DepartmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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