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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Vegetation, topography, and soil depth drive microbial community structure in two Swedish grasslands

Guasconi, Daniela; Juhanson, Jaanis; Clemmensen, Karina E.; Cousins, Sara A. O.; Hugelius, Gustaf; Manzoni, Stefano; Roth, Nina; Fransson, Petra


Fungal and bacterial community composition across a soil depth profile in two Swedish grasslands is driven by vegetation and topography, but the drivers of abundance and diversity differ between groups.Soil microbial diversity and community composition are shaped by various factors linked to land management, topographic position, and vegetation. To study the effects of these drivers, we characterized fungal and bacterial communities from bulk soil at four soil depths ranging from the surface to below the rooting zone of two Swedish grasslands with differing land-use histories, each including both an upper and a lower catenary position. We hypothesized that differences in plant species richness and plant functional group composition between the four study sites would drive the variation in soil microbial community composition and correlate with microbial diversity, and that microbial biomass and diversity would decrease with soil depth following a decline in resource availability. While vegetation was identified as the main driver of microbial community composition, the explained variation was significantly higher for bacteria than for fungi, and the communities differed more between grasslands than between catenary positions. Microbial biomass derived from DNA abundance decreased with depth, but diversity remained relatively stable, indicating diverse microbial communities even below the rooting zone. Finally, plant-microbial diversity correlations were significant only for specific plant and fungal functional groups, emphasizing the importance of functional interactions over general species richness.


16S; grassland; ITS; mycorrhizal fungi; plant community; saprotrophic fungi

Published in

FEMS Microbiology Ecology
2023, Volume: 99, number: 8, article number: fiad080