Fungal communities' ITSF1 gene profiles in soil.
Research Hypothesis: The research hypothesis centers around the investigation of fungal communities in surface soils contaminated by heavy metals in the Zambian Copperbelt region. The hypothesis posits that fungal communities in polluted areas (specifically TD25 and TD26) will exhibit distinct taxonomic compositions compared to uncontaminated surface soils from Mwekera Forest (MW). Additionally, the study anticipates the identification of fungal species that demonstrate resilience to copper (Cu) and cobalt (Co), the primary contaminants in the Copperbelt. The data collected through metagenomic analysis of ITSF1 gene amplicons seeks to test these hypotheses. Data Description: The data comprises fungal community profiles obtained from various soil samples. These samples include MW (Mwekera Natural Forest) soil from a planted area (P1), TD25 (Kitwe Tailing Dam) soil from both bare surface soil (B2) and planted surface soil (P2), and TD26 (Uchi Tailing Dam) soil from bare surface areas (B2, B1). The fungal community structure at both the phylum and genus levels was characterized through metagenomic analysis. Interpretation of Data: The data reveals significant insights into the fungal communities in the studied soils. At the phylum level, Basidiomycota dominates the fungal profiles in the tailings (TD25 and TD26), followed by Ascomycota, Glomeromycota, and Rozellomycota. This dominance suggests that these fungal phyla are well-adapted to metal-contaminated environments. Notably, several fungal genera, including Vanrija, Paraconiothyrium, Toxicladosporium, Neocosmospora, Septoglomus, and Fusarium, were more abundant in contaminated tailings soils. These genera are known for their potential in leaching, absorbing, and transforming heavy metals, indicating their crucial role in bioremediation efforts. Furthermore, specific fungal species, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Oidiodendron, demonstrate resilience to copper (Cu) and cobalt (Co). This suggests that these fungi have adapted to thrive in the presence of these contaminants and could potentially be harnessed for bioremediation initiatives in similar environments. Notable Findings: 1. Basidiomycota predominates in metal-contaminated soils, with Ascomycota prevailing in reference soil. 2. Glomeromycota, known for forming beneficial associations with plant roots, were found in contaminated soils. 3. Rozellomycota, with potential ecological roles, were identified, including their presence in crude oil-contaminated soils, indicating bioremediation potential. 4. Several fungal genera, especially in contaminated soils, may play crucial roles in metal transformation and bioremediation. Implications: These findings provide valuable insights for environmental management and bioremediation strategies in areas affected by mining activities. The identified fungal species, particularly those exhibiting metal tolerance, hold promise for enhancing the recovery of contaminated sites.