Fungal parasites of the phylum Chytridiomycota (chytrids) are increasingly recognized as potent control agents of phytoplankton, including toxic bloom-forming cyanobacteria. We experimentally tested whether agricultural fungicides can interfere with natural epidemics caused by parasitic chytrid fungi and thereby favor cyanobacterial bloom formation. Specifically, we exposed the toxic bloom-forming cyanobacterium Planktothrix and its chytrid parasite Rhizophydium megarrhizum to different concentrations of the widely used agricultural fungicides tebuconazole and azoxystrobin, as well as the medical fungicide itraconazole (the latter was included to test its potential to suppress infection in vitro). Environmentally relevant concentrations of tebuconazole (20-200 μg/L) and azoxystrobin (1-30 μg/L) significantly decreased infection prevalence over a timespan of seven days, while not affecting the growth of uninfected cyanobacteria. Itraconazole suppressed infection completely. Our findings demonstrate that agricultural fungicide run-off has the potential to inhibit natural chytrid epidemics and, thereby, to promote the proliferation of toxic cyanobacteria.
Azoxystrobin; Chytrid; Cyanobacterial blooms; Fungicides; Host-parasite; Itraconazole; Planktothrix; Rhizophydium; Tebuconazole