Chytridiomycota, often referred to as chytrids, can be virulent parasites with the potential to inflict mass mortalities on hosts, causing e.g. changes in phytoplankton size distributions and succession, and the delay or suppression of bloom events. Molecular environmental surveys have revealed an unexpectedly large diversity of chytrids across a wide range of aquatic ecosystems worldwide. As a result, scientific interest towards fungal parasites of phytoplankton has been gaining momentum in the past few years. Yet, we still know little about the ecology of chytrids, their life cycles, phylogeny, host specificity and range. Information on the contribution of chytrids to trophic interactions, as well as co-evolutionary feedbacks of fungal parasitism on host populations is also limited. This paper synthesizes ideas stressing the multifaceted biological relevance of phytoplankton chytridiomycosis, resulting from discussions among an international team of chytrid researchers. It presents our view on the most pressing research needs for promoting the integration of chytrid fungi into aquatic ecology.
The authors want to thank all participants of the 1st Plankton Chytridiomycosis Workshop (PCW) in Berlin, Germany (2015) and the 2nd PCW in Skagaströnd, Iceland (2016) for valuable discussions prior to the writing of this paper. The Leibniz Association is acknowledged for supporting the 1st PCW in Berlin (Germany) and the University of Akureyri and the Sóknaráætlun Nordurlands Vestra for their financial support to the 2nd PCW in Skagaströnd (Iceland). HPG and ECB were supported by the Leibniz Pakt/SAW-project 'MycoLink' (Pakt/SAW-2014-IGB-1). ASG was funded by the NWO (016.Veni.171.063). SVdW and MG were each funded by the IGB fellowship programme. RA was supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
- Aquatic systems
- emerging infectious disease
- energy and organic matter cycling
- food web
- fungal parasites
- host parasite interactions