Contrasting primary successional trajectories of fungi and bacteria in retreating glacier soils


Early community assembly of soil microbial communities is essential for pedogenesis and development of organic legacies. We examined fungal and bacterial successions along a well-established temperate glacier forefront chronosequence representing ~70 years of deglaciation to determine community assembly. As microbial communities may be heavily structured by establishing vegetation, we included nonvegetated soils as well as soils from underneath four plant species with differing mycorrhizal ecologies (Abies lasiocarpa, ectomycorrhizal; Luetkea pectinata, arbuscular mycorrhizal; Phyllodoce empetriformis, ericoid mycorrhizal; Saxifraga ferruginea, nonmycorrhizal). Our main objectives were to contrast fungal and bacterial successional dynamics and community assembly as well as to decouple the effects of plant establishment and time since deglaciation on microbial trajectories using high-throughput sequencing. Our data indicate that distance from glacier terminus has large effects on biomass accumulation, community membership, and distribution for both fungi and bacteria. Surprisingly, presence of plants rather than their identity was more important in structuring bacterial communities along the chronosequence and played only a very minor role in structuring the fungal communities. Further, our analyses suggest that bacterial communities may converge during assembly supporting determinism, whereas fungal communities show no such patterns. Although fungal communities provided little evidence of convergence in community structure, many taxa were nonrandomly distributed across the glacier foreland; similar taxon-level responses were observed in bacterial communities. Overall, our data highlight differing drivers for fungal and bacterial trajectories during early primary succession in recently deglaciated soils. See also the Perspective by Schmidt et al. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Publication Title

Molecular Ecology