Global patterns of biodiversity have emerged for soil microorganisms, plants and animals, and the extraordinary significance of microbial functions in ecosystems is also well established. Virtually unknown, however, are large-scale patterns of microbial diversity in freshwaters, although these aquatic ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity and biogeochemical processes. Here we report on the first large-scale study of biodiversity of leaf-litter fungi in streams along a latitudinal gradient unravelled by Illumina sequencing. The study is based on fungal communities colonizing standardized plant litter in 19 globally distributed stream locations between 69°N and 44°S. Fungal richness suggests a hump-shaped distribution along the latitudinal gradient. Strikingly, community composition of fungi was more clearly related to thermal preferences than to biogeography. Our results suggest that identifying differences in key environmental drivers, such as temperature, among taxa and ecosystem types is critical to unravel the global patterns of aquatic fungal diversity.