Fairy ring disease affects epiphytic algal assemblages associated with the moss Sanionia uncinata (Hedw.) Loeske (Bryophyta) on King George Island, Antarctica
Since the nineteenth century, a ring-forming disease attacking Antarctic mosses has been reported. However, to date, only the effects on the mosses themselves are known. In this study, we used DNA metabarcoding to investigate the effects on the moss epiphytic algal community at different stages of disease progression. As the disease progressed, algal species richness decreased, although overall abundance was not significantly affected. Prasiolales appeared unaffected, whereas Ulotrichales were more sensitive. Trebouxiales dominated the advanced disease stage, suggesting a possible benefit from the disease, either through the elimination of competition or creation of new niches. Infection is responsible for moss death, leading to habitat loss for other organisms, but pathogenic effects on algae cannot be ruled out. Our data indicate that the disease not only impacts mosses but also other groups, potentially resulting in loss of Antarctic biodiversity. This study provides the first report of the disease effects on epiphytic algal communities of Antarctic bryophytes.
Authors: Câmara, Paulo E.A.S., Eisenlohr, Pedro V., Coelho, Lívia C., Carvalho-Silva, Micheline, Amorim, Eduardo T., Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey, Pinto, Otavio H.B., Rosa, Luiz Henrique