Contrasted Micro-Eukaryotic Diversity Associated with Sphagnum Mosses in Tropical, Subtropical and Temperate Climatic Zones


Sphagnum-dominated ecosystem plays major roles as carbon sinks at the global level. Associated microbial communities, in particular, eukaryotes, play significant roles in nutrient fixation and turnover. In order to understand better the ecological processes driven by these organisms, the first step is to characterise these associated organisms. We characterised the taxonomic diversity, and from this, inferred the functional diversity of microeukaryotes in Sphagnum mosses in tropical, subtropical and temperate climatic zones through an environmental DNA diversity metabarcoding survey of the V9 region of the gene coding for the RNA of the small subunit of the ribosomes (SSU rRNA). As microbial processes are strongly driven by temperatures, we hypothesised that saprotrophy would be highest in warm regions, whereas mixotrophy, an optimal strategy in oligotrophic environments, would peak under colder climates. Phylotype richness was higher in tropical and subtropical climatic zones than in the temperate region, mostly due to a higher diversity of animal parasites (i.e. Apicomplexa). Decomposers, and especially opportunistic yeasts and moulds, were more abundant under warmer climates, while mixotrophic organisms were more abundant under temperate climates. The dominance of decomposers, suggesting a higher heterotrophic activity under warmer climates, is coherent with the generally observed faster nutrient cycling at lower latitudes; this phenomenon is likely enhanced by higher inputs of nutrients most probably brought in the system by Metazoa, such as arthropods.

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We would like to thank Christophe V.W. Seppey for the help on the statistical part and for fruitful discussion. This study was carried out with permission number 24 Uke, Tyouzai-No.4-790 (the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan), 416—sampling of protists—(the Board of Education of Kagoshima Prefecture), 141—sampling of protists—(the Board of Education of Yakushima-cho, Kan-kyuu-chi-Koku-Kyo 120821001 (the Kyushu Regional Office, Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan) and Kan-kyuu-chi-Koku-Kyo 120821001 (the National park and conservation Maintenance Division, the Kyushu Regional Office, Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan).


This work was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation project no. 310003A 143960 and a project “Atraccion de talento investigador” by the Consejería de Educación, Juventud y Deporte, Comunidad de Madrid (Spain) no 2017-T1/AMB-5210 to EL, a short-term fellowship from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) ASTF 520 - 2015, a CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina) doctoral fellowship, the Argentinean project FONCyT PICT-2014-1290 to SM, the University of Neuchâtel and Hosei (for field work in Japan to EM and SS). FU is a CONICET researcher.

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Singer, D., Metz, S., Unrein, F. et al. Contrasted Micro-Eukaryotic Diversity Associated with Sphagnum Mosses in Tropical, Subtropical and Temperate Climatic Zones. Microb Ecol 78, 714–724 (2019).

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  • Sphagnosphere
  • V9 region of the SSU rRNA gene
  • Protist
  • Mould
  • Yeast
  • Microbial food webs