Mycological Progress

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 155–169 | Cite as

Distinct sensitivity of fungal freshwater guilds to water quality

  • Oliver RöhlEmail author
  • Derek Peršoh
  • Moritz Mittelbach
  • Vasco Elbrecht
  • Andreas Brachmann
  • Julia Nuy
  • Jens Boenigk
  • Florian Leese
  • Dominik Begerow
Original Article


Multiple anthropogenic stressors have been shown to impact animal and plant communities in freshwater ecosystems, but the responses of aquatic fungi remain largely unknown. Stressor effects on fungal communities may, however, result in changes of decomposition of plant litter and, thus, impact nutrient cycling, a key process for ecosystem functioning. We tested the impact of increased chloride and sediment levels, as well as reduced water flow velocity, on eukaryotic freshwater communities, with an emphasis on fungi, in a mesocosm experiment. Each of the three stressors was applied individually and in all combinations in a full-factorial design. Litterbags with non-sterilised tree leaves and sterile ceramic tiles were added to the mesocosms, to analyse the responses of communities in decaying plant material and in biofilms. Fungi preferably occurring in biofilms were supposed to represent indigenous aquatic fungi, while litterbag communities should be predominantly composed of fungi known from terrestrial litter. Community composition was assessed by high-throughput sequencing of amplified barcoding regions. Similarity matrices of operational taxonomic unit (OTU) tables calculated by UCLUST and CD-HIT-OTU-Illumina were significantly correlated. Preferred occurrence in biofilm and litter communities, respectively, was used for the grouping of OTUs into three ecological guilds. Stressor sensitivity varied among the guilds. While non-fungal, in particular autotrophic, OTUs responded to several treatments, two of the fungal guilds, i.e. those exclusively colonising litter and those preferably occurring on the ceramic tiles, showed no response to any applied treatment. Only fungi preferably, but not exclusively, colonising litter significantly responded to chloride addition. Their distribution patterns again correlated significantly with those of non-fungal OTUs, indicating possible interdependencies between both groups. The results indicate that eukaryotic freshwater communities are composed of different guilds, with distinctive sensitivity and tolerance to anthropogenic stressors.


Fungal guilds Freshwater fungi Abiotic stressors OTU diversity 



We would like to thank Janis Neumann, Andre Wlecklik and Christoph Thiel (UDE, AG Aquatic ecosystem research) for assisting with the mesocosm experiment and collecting the samples. We would like to thank Tanja Rollnik (RUB, AG Geobotany) for the DNA extraction and library preparation. We would also like to thank Manfred Jensen (UDE, AG Aquatic ecosystem research) and Christian Schulz (RUB, Department of Botany) for the helpful discussions regarding the appropriate statistical analysis. Hai Nguyen is thanked for critically reading the manuscript and linguistic improvement. Finally, we would like to thank Stiftung Mercator (Pr-2013-0036) and the Kurt Eberhard Bode Foundation (FL) for the financial support. FL and VE would like to thank Jeremy Piggott (University of Kyoto), Christoph Matthaei (University of Otago) and Ralph Tollrian (University of Bochum) for the helpful advice during the planning of the ExStream experiment.

Author contributions

OR did the molecular work and data analyses. JN supported analysis of the biofilm samples. DP and MM performed the data analyses. AB and DP designed the HTS approach. DB and DP conceived the manuscript outline. VE and FL designed and coordinated the ExStream mesocosm experiment. JB and DB designed the microbial part of the experiment. OR wrote the manuscript, with the guidance and support of DB and DP. All authors discussed and commented on the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11557_2016_1261_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1032 kb)


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Copyright information

© German Mycological Society and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AG Geobotany, Faculty of Biology and BiotechnologyRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.AG Aquatic Ecosystem Research, Faculty of BiologyUniversität Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  3. 3.Genetics, Faculty of BiologyLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichPlanegg-MartinsriedGermany
  4. 4.Department of Biodiversity, Faculty of BiologyUniversität Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany

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