Biogeochemical drivers of microbial community convergence across actively retreating glaciers

Sarah C. Castle, Diana R. Nemergut, A. Stuart Grandy, Jonathan W. Leff, Emily B. Graham, Eran Hood, Steven K. Schmidt, Kyle Wickings, Cory C. Cleveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The ecological processes that influence biogeographical patterns of microorganisms are actively debated. To investigate how such patterns emerge during ecosystem succession, we examined the biogeochemical drivers of bacterial community assembly in soils over two environmentally distinct, recently deglaciated chronosequences separated by a distance of more than 1300 km. Our results show that despite different geographic, climatic, and soil chemical and physical characteristics at the two sites, soil bacterial community structure and decomposer function converged during plant succession. In a comparative analysis, we found that microbial communities in early succession soils were compositionally distinct from a diverse group of mature forest soils, but that the differences between successional soils and mature soils decreased from early to late stages of succession. Overall differences in bacterial community composition between sites were explained by soil pH. However, within-site successional patterns – leading to community convergence across sites at the latest stage of succession – were explained by alternate factors such as soil organic carbon and soil organic matter chemistry, which were correlated to bacterial community structure across both glacial and mature forest soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-84
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Noah Fierer and Chris Lauber for providing us with soil samples and Sean O'Neill for assistance with molecular sample processing. We thank Sasha Reed and several anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This project was funded the National Science Foundation ( NSF DEB-0922306 ). E.B.G was supported by the Microbiomes in Transition (MinT) Initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy ( DE-AC05-76RL01830 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • 16S rRNA gene sequencing
  • 454
  • Bacteria
  • Convergence
  • Microbial succession
  • Soil carbon chemistry

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