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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Urban forest soils harbour distinct and more diverse communities of bacteria and fungi compared to less disturbed forest soils

Scholier, Tiffany; Lavrinienko, Anton; Brila, Ilze; Tukalenko, Eugene; Hindstrom, Rasmus; Vasylenko, Andrii; Cayol, Claire; Ecke, Frauke; Singh, Navinder J.; Forsman, Jukka T.; Tolvanen, Anne; Matala, Juho; Huitu, Otso; Kallio, Eva R.; Koskela, Esa; Mappes, Tapio; Watts, Phillip C.


Anthropogenic changes to land use drive concomitant changes in biodiversity, including that of the soil microbiota. However, it is not clear how increasing intensity of human disturbance is reflected in the soil microbial communities. To address this issue, we used amplicon sequencing to quantify the microbiota (bacteria and fungi) in the soil of forests (n = 312) experiencing four different land uses, national parks (set aside for nature conservation), managed (for forestry purposes), suburban (on the border of an urban area) and urban (fully within a town or city), which broadly represent a gradient of anthropogenic disturbance. Alpha diversity of bacteria and fungi increased with increasing levels of anthropogenic disturbance, and was thus highest in urban forest soils and lowest in the national parks. The forest soil microbial communities were structured according to the level of anthropogenic disturbance, with a clear urban signature evident in both bacteria and fungi. Despite notable differences in community composition, there was little change in the predicted functional traits of urban bacteria. By contrast, urban soils exhibited a marked loss of ectomycorrhizal fungi. Soil pH was positively correlated with the level of disturbance, and thus was the strongest predictor of variation in alpha and beta diversity of forest soil communities, indicating a role of soil alkalinity in structuring urban soil microbial communities. Hence, our study shows how the properties of urban forest soils promote an increase in microbial diversity and a change in forest soil microbiota composition.


bacteria; biodiversity; forest management; fungi; national park; urban

Published in

Molecular Ecology
2023, Volume: 32, number: 2, pages: 504-517