Relationship between soil fungal diversity and temperature in the maritime Antarctic

Kevin K. Newsham, David W. Hopkins, Lilia C. Carvalhais, Peter T. Fretwell, Steven P. Rushton, Anthony G. O'Donnell, Paul G. Dennis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Soil fungi have pivotal ecological roles as decomposers, pathogens and symbionts. Alterations to their diversity arising from climate change could have substantial effects on ecosystems, particularly those undergoing rapid warming that contain few species. Here, we report a study using pyrosequencing to assess fungal diversity in 29 soils sampled from a 1,650 km climatic gradient through the maritime Antarctic, the most rapidly warming region in the Southern Hemisphere. Using a 'pace-for-time' substitution approach, we show that soil fungal diversity is higher in warmer habitats, with increases of 4.7 (observed) and 11.3 (predicted) fungal taxa per degree Celsius rise in surface temperature along the transect. Among 22 predictor variables, air temperature was the strongest and most consistent predictor of diversity. We propose that the current rapid warming in the maritime Antarctic (0.34 °C per decade) will facilitate the colonization of soil by a wider diversity of fungi than at present, with data from regression models suggesting 20-27% increases in fungal species richness in the southernmost soils by 2100. Such increases in diversity, which provide a sentinel for changes at lower latitudes, are likely to have substantial effects on nutrient cycling and, ultimately, productivity in the species-poor soils of maritime Antarctica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-186
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number2
Early online date28 Sept 2015
Publication statusPrint publication - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


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