A distinctive fungal community inhabiting cryoconite holes on glaciers in Svalbard

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Abstract

Cryoconite holes on glacier surfaces are ice-cold hot spots of microbial diversity and activity but still little is known about their fungal inhabitants. We provide the first report of distinctive fungal communities in cryoconite debris from three valley glaciers at Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Multivariate analysis of terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) profiles of rRNA ITS amplicons revealed that quite distinct fungal communities were found in cryoconite holes compared with soils from adjacent moraine and tundra sites, and that communities on glaciers with contrasting ice-surface hydrology also differed. Most of the fungi cultured from cryoconite sediment were basidiomycetous yeasts or filamentous Ascomycota (Helotiales/Pleosporales). The latter included aeroaquatic fungi, such as Articulospora and Varicosporium, implying a role for these important freshwater decomposers in the carbon dynamics of cryoconite holes. Matching of the dominant peaks from T-RFLP analysis to predicted peaks of cultured isolates confirmed the abundance of these aeroaquatic fungi but also revealed that most of the dominant T-RFLP peaks did not match any cultured isolates. Considering the prevalence and endangerment of glacial environments worldwide, these findings would suggest that their potential as reservoirs of fungal diversity should not be overlooked.

Keywords

  • Aeroaquatic fungi, Glacier, Ingoldian fungi, Svalbard, T-RFLP