High temperatures enhance the microbial genetic potential to recycle C and N from necromass in high‐mountain soils
- Journal Article
Climate change is strongly affecting high‐mountain soils and warming in particular is associated with pronounced changes in microbe‐mediated C and N cycling, affecting plant‐soil interactions and greenhouse gas balances and therefore feedbacks to global warming. We used shotgun metagenomics to assess changes in microbial community structures, as well as changes in microbial C‐ and N‐cycling potential and stress response genes and we linked these data with changes in soil C and N pools and temperature‐dependent measurements of bacterial growth rates. We did so by incubating high‐elevation soil from the Swiss Alps at 4°C, 15°C, 25°C, or 35°C for 1 month. We found no shift with increasing temperature in the C‐substrate‐degrader community towards taxa more capable of degrading recalcitrant organic matter. Conversely, at 35°C, we found an increase in genes associated with the degradation and modification of microbial cell walls, together with high bacterial growth rates. Together, these findings suggest that the rapidly growing high‐temperature community is fueled by necromass from heat‐sensitive taxa. This interpretation was further supported by a shift in the microbial N‐cycling potential towards N mineralization and assimilation under higher temperatures, along with reduced potential for conversions among inorganic N forms. Microbial stress‐response genes reacted inconsistently to increasing temperature, suggesting that the high‐temperature community was not severely stressed by these conditions. Rather, soil microbes were able to acclimate by changing the thermal properties of membranes and cell walls as indicated by an increase in genes involved in membrane and cell wall modifications as well as a shift in the optimum temperature for bacterial growth towards the treatment temperature. Overall, our results suggest that high temperatures, as they may occur with heat waves under global warming, promote a highly active microbial community capable of rapid mineralization of microbial necromass, which may transiently amplify warming effects. Show more
Journal / seriesGlobal Change Biology
Pages / Article No.
Subjectbacterial growth; C and N cycling; climate change; high‐mountain soil; metagenomes; necromass; stress response
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