Soil fungi have pivotal ecological roles as decomposers, pathogens and symbionts1,2. Alterations to their diversity arising from climate change could have substantial effects on ecosystems, particularly those undergoing rapid warming that contain few species3,4. 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 Hemisphere5,6. Using a ‘space-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 decade6) 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.
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Logistical support was provided by the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Navy (HMS Endurance). V. A. Laudicina, V. Ord, P. Coates, M. Dunn, P. Torode, M. Jobson, A. Clark, J. Wake, D. Hall, G. Marshall, M. Biszczuk and K. Bazeley provided technical support. This work was funded by a UK Natural Environment Research Council Antarctic Funding Initiative grant (NE/D00893X/1; AFI 7/05) led by D.W.H. and a University of Queensland Early Career Researcher Award to P.G.D. All are gratefully acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Newsham, K., Hopkins, D., Carvalhais, L. et al. Relationship between soil fungal diversity and temperature in the maritime Antarctic. Nature Clim Change 6, 182–186 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2806
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