Subtle shifts in microbial communities occur alongside the release of carbon induced by drought and rewetting in contrasting peatland ecosystems

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Peat represents a globally significant pool of sequestered carbon. However, peatland carbon stocks are highly threatened by anthropogenic climate change, including drought, which leads to a large release of carbon dioxide. Although the enzymatic mechanisms underlying drought-driven carbon release are well documented, the effect of drought on peatland microbial communities has been little studied. Here, we carried out a replicated and controlled drought manipulation using intact peat ‘mesocosm cores’ taken from bog and fen habitats, and used a combination of community fingerprinting and sequencing of marker genes to identify community changes associated with drought. Community composition varied with habitat and depth. Moreover, community differences between mesocosm cores were stronger than the effect of the drought treatment, emphasising the importance of replication in microbial marker gene studies. While the effect of drought on the overall composition of prokaryotic and eukaryotic communities was weak, a subset of the microbial community did change in relative abundance, especially in the fen habitat at 5 cm depth. ‘Drought-responsive’ OTUs were disproportionately drawn from the phyla Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria. Collectively, the data provide insights into the microbial community changes occurring alongside drought-driven carbon release from peatlands, and suggest a number of novel avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11314
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Early online date12 Sep 2017
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2017

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