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Abundance and Diversity of Bacterial, Archaeal, and Fungal Communities Along an Altitudinal Gradient in Alpine Forest Soils: What Are the Driving Factors?

Siles, José A., Margesin, Rosa
Microbial ecology 2016 v.72 no.1 pp. 207-220
Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Proteobacteria, Zygomycota, altitude, climate change, community structure, ecosystems, forest soils, forests, fungal communities, fungi, nutrients, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, soil microorganisms, soil organic matter, soil pH
Shifts in soil microbial communities over altitudinal gradients and the driving factors are poorly studied. Their elucidation is indispensable to gain a comprehensive understanding of the response of ecosystems to global climate change. Here, we investigated soil archaeal, bacterial, and fungal communities at four Alpine forest sites representing a climosequence, over an altitudinal gradient from 545 to 2000 m above sea level (asl), regarding abundance and diversity by using qPCR and Illumina sequencing, respectively. Archaeal community was dominated by Thaumarchaeota, and no significant shifts were detected in abundance or community composition with altitude. The relative bacterial abundance increased at higher altitudes, which was related to increasing levels of soil organic matter and nutrients with altitude. Shifts in bacterial richness and diversity as well as community structure (comprised basically of Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroidetes) significantly correlated with several environmental and soil chemical factors, especially soil pH. The site at the lowest altitude harbored the highest bacterial richness and diversity, although richness/diversity community properties did not show a monotonic decrease along the gradient. The relative size of fungal community also increased with altitude and its composition comprised Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Zygomycota. Changes in fungal richness/diversity and community structure were mainly governed by pH and C/N, respectively. The variation of the predominant bacterial and fungal classes over the altitudinal gradient was the result of the environmental and soil chemical factors prevailing at each site.