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Filtering fungi enhance nutrient removal in salt marshes

Salt marshes provide essential ecosystem services, such removing nutrients from runoff before it enters the ocean, but there is more research needed to uncover the mechanisms by which these services are provided and how they are being impacted by increasing human activity. A recent study appearing in the journal Microbial Ecology, led by former NUMSC graduate student Patrick Kearns of the Bowen lab, addressed this question by investigating fungal diversity in local salt marshes, in collaboration with the Plum Island LTER and the TIDE Project. Kearns and coauthors found that amounts of nitrate derived from human pollution are leading to increased fungal diversity in salt marsh communities with particular increases in fungal species that are likely able to remove harmful nitrate pollution before it can negatively impact our coastal waters. Thus, these fungi may be one line of defense against nutrient pollution in our coastal waters.

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