Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are distributed worldwide in all semiarid and arid lands, where they play a determinant role in element cycling and soil development. Although much work has concentrated on BSC microbial communities, free-living fungi have been hitherto largely overlooked. The aim of this study was to examine the fungal biodiversity, by cultural-dependent and cultural-independent approaches, in thirteen samples of Arctic BSCs collected at different sites in the Alpine Tarfala Valley, located on the slopes of Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in northern Scandinavia. Isolated fungi were identified by both microscopic observation and molecular approaches. Data revealed that the fungal assemblage composition was homogeneous among the BSCs analyzed, with low biodiversity and the presence of a few dominant species; the majority of fungi isolated belonged to the Ascomycota, and Cryptococcus gilvescens
and Pezoloma ericae
were the most frequently-recorded species. Ecological considerations for the species involved and the implication of our findings for future fungal research in BSCs are put forward.
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