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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Soil bacteria respond to regional edapho-climatic conditions while soil fungi respond to management intensity in grasslands along a European transect

Barreiro, A.; Fox, A.; Jongen, M.; Melo, J.; Musyoki, M.; Vieira, A.; Zimmermann, J.; Carlsson, G.; Cruz, C.; Luscher, A.; Rasche, F.; Silva, L.; Widmer, F.; Martensson, L. M. Dimitrova


Soil microbial community structure is determined by environmental conditions and influenced by other factors, such as the intensity of the land use management. Studies addressing the effect of environmental factors and management on grassland soil microbial communities at the continental scale are missing, and the wide range of ecosystem services provided by these ecosystems are thus also wanting. To address this knowledge gap, this study presents data on grassland soil microbial communities along a pan-European agro-ecological gradient. The transect included five geographical locations (Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal mainland, Portugal Azores). At each location, soils were collected in two regions characterized by favourable and less favourable conditions for plant growth. In each of these ten regions, grasslands along a gradient of management intensity were selected, i.e. grassland under intensive, less intensive and extensive management. Phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) was used to characterize the microbial community structure (PLFA pattern) in relation to climatic and soil properties. Over the whole geographical range, the environmental properties determined the soil microbial community structure. In Sweden and Switzerland, the regional growth conditions had the strongest influence on the soil microbial communities, while in Germany, Portugal mainland and Azores the management intensity was more important. Splitting up this whole community response into individual groups reveals that, in general, saprotrophic fungal biomarkers were highest in extensively managed grasslands while bacterial biomarkers differed mainly between the regions. We conclude that at the transect level, climate and soil properties were the most important factors influencing soil bacterial community structure, while soil fungal groups were more responsive to grassland management intensity. Overall agricultural sustainability could benefit from informed soil health promoting management practices, and this study contributes to such knowledge, showing the importance of management for the soil microbial biomass and community structure.


Production grasslands; Semi-natural grasslands; Phospholipid fatty acids; PLFA; Agro-ecological gradient; Fertilization

Published in

Applied Soil Ecology
2022, volume: 170, article number: 104264
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Barreiro, Ana
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Fox, A.
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Jongen, M.
Universidade de Lisboa
Melo, J.
Universidade de Lisboa
Musyoki, M.
University of Hohenheim
Vieira, A.
University of the Azores
Zimmermann, J.
University of Hohenheim
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Cruz, C.
Universidade de Lisboa
Lüscher, A.
Rasche, F.
University of Hohenheim
Silva, L.
University of the Azores
Widmer, F.
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope

Associated SLU-program

Future Agriculture (until Jan 2017)
SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)