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Fungal Ecology
Vol. 19, 2016, Pages: 14–27

Aquatic hyphomycetes in a changing environment

F. Bärlocher

Department of Biology, Mt. Allison University, Sackville, NB E4L 1G7, Canada.


In 1942, Ingold documented an ecologically defined group of fungi, aquatic hyphomycetes, on autumn-shed leaves decaying in streams. They were shown to be vital intermediaries between the nutritionally poor leaf substratum and leaf-eating invertebrates. Research has subsequently emphasized functional aspects such as leaf decomposition and nutritional conditioning by fungi. Structural aspects (community composition) have attracted less attention, partly because of the difficulties of identifying fungal mycelia in situ. Extraction, amplification (PCR, qPCR) and characterization of DNA and RNA, and, more recently, of proteins, allow much greater insights into the presence of fungal taxa, their metabolic status (dead, dormant or active), and their potential and actual participation in decomposition processes. This approach can yield huge amounts of data, and major challenges today are the development and application of suitable bioinformatics techniques. The complexity of data collection and evaluation favour interdisciplinary teams of researchers. Fungi are major players in most ecosystems and are increasingly affected by human impacts. Changing land use, eutrophication/pollution and climate change are among the major factors that affect diversity and ecological functions of aquatic hyphomycetes.

Keywords: Aquatic hyphomycetes; Big data; Bioinformatics; Fungal diversity; Molecular ecology.

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