Data_Sheet_1_A Salinity Threshold Separating Fungal Communities in the Baltic Sea.PDF

Salinity is a significant factor for structuring microbial communities, but little is known for aquatic fungi, particularly in the pelagic zone of brackish ecosystems. In this study, we explored the diversity and composition of fungal communities following a progressive salinity decline (from 34 to 3 PSU) along three transects of ca. 2000 km in the Baltic Sea, the world’s largest estuary. Based on 18S rRNA gene sequence analysis, we detected clear changes in fungal community composition along the salinity gradient and found significant differences in composition of fungal communities established above and below a critical value of 8 PSU. At salinities below this threshold, fungal communities resembled those from freshwater environments, with a greater abundance of Chytridiomycota, particularly of the orders Rhizophydiales, Lobulomycetales, and Gromochytriales. At salinities above 8 PSU, communities were more similar to those from marine environments and, depending on the season, were dominated by a strain of the LKM11 group (Cryptomycota) or by members of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Our results highlight salinity as an important environmental driver also for pelagic fungi, and thus should be taken into account to better understand fungal diversity and ecological function in the aquatic realm.