Marine yeasts play an important role in biodegradation and nutrient cycling and are often associated with marine flora and fauna. They show maximum growth at pH levels lower than present-day seawater pH. Thus, contrary to many other marine organisms, they may actually profit from ocean acidification. Hence, we conducted a microcosm study, incubating natural seawater from the North Sea at present-day pH (8.10) and two near-future pH levels (7.81 and 7.67). Yeasts were isolated from the initial seawater sample and after 2 and 4 weeks of incubation. Isolates were classified by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) and representative isolates were identified by partial sequencing of the large subunit rRNA gene. From the initial seawater sample, we predominantly isolated a yeast-like filamentous fungus related to Aureobasidium pullulans, Cryptococcus sp., Candida sake, and various cold-adapted yeasts. After incubation, we found more different yeast species at near-future pH levels than at present-day pH. Yeasts reacting to low pH were related to Leucosporidium scottii, Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, Cryptococcus sp., and Debaryomyces hansenii. Our results suggest that these yeasts will benefit from seawater pH reductions and give a first indication that the importance of yeasts will increase in a more acidic ocean.
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