Fungi in a changing world: growth rates will be elevated, but spore production may decrease in future climates

Athanasios Damialis, Aqilah Mohammad, John Halley, Alan Gange

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Very little is known about the impact of climate change on fungi and especially on spore production. Fungal spores can be allergenic, thus being important for human health. The aim of this study was to investigate how climate change influences the responsive ability of fungi by simulating differing environmental regimes. Fungal species with high spore allergenic potential and atmospheric abundance were grown and experimentally examined under a variety of temperatures and different nutrient availability. Each represented the average decadal air temperature of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s in the UK, along with an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate change scenario for 2100. All tests were run on six fungal species: Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus niger, Botrytis cinerea, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Cladosporium oxysporum and Epicoccum purpurascens. Mycelium growth rate and spore production were examined on each single species and competitive capacity among species combinations in pairs. All fungal species grew faster at higher temperatures, and this was more pronounced for the temperature projection in 2100. Most species grew faster when there was lower nutrient availability. Exceptions were the species with the highest growth rate (E. purpurascens) and with the highest competition capacity
(A. alternata). Most species (except for E. purpurascens) produced more spores in the richer nutrient medium but fewer
as temperature increased. C. cladosporioides was an exception, exponentially increasing its spore production in the temperature of the 2100 scenario. Regarding competitive capacity, no species displayed any significant alterations within the
environmental range checked. It is suggested that in future climates, fungi will display dramatic growth responses, with
faster mycelium growth and lower spore production, with questions risen on relevant allergen potential.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1007/s00484-014-0927-0
Pages (from-to)1157-1167
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2014

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