Tannin impacts on microbial diversity and the functioning of alpine soils: a multidisciplinary approach

Environ Microbiol. 2008 Mar;10(3):799-809. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2007.01504.x.


In alpine ecosystems, tannin-rich-litter decomposition occurs mainly under snow. With global change, variations in snowfall might affect soil temperature and microbial diversity with biogeochemical consequences on ecosystem processes. However, the relationships linking soil temperature and tannin degradation with soil microorganisms and nutrients fluxes remain poorly understood. Here, we combined biogeochemical and molecular profiling approaches to monitor tannin degradation, nutrient cycling and microbial communities (Bacteria, Crenarcheotes, Fungi) in undisturbed winter time soil cores exposed to low temperature (0 degrees C/-6 degrees C), amended or not with tannins, extracted from Dryas octopetala. No toxic effect of tannins on microbial populations was found, indicating that they withstand phenolics from alpine vegetation litter. Additionally at -6 degrees C, higher carbon mineralization, higher protocatechuic acid concentration (intermediary metabolite of tannin catabolism), and changes in fungal phylogenetic composition showed that freezing temperatures may select fungi able to degrade D. octopetala's tannins. In contrast, negative net nitrogen mineralization rates were observed at -6 degrees C possibly due to a more efficient N immobilization by tannins than N production by microbial activities, and suggesting a decoupling between C and N mineralization. Our results confirmed tannins and soil temperatures as relevant controls of microbial catabolism which are crucial for alpine ecosystems functioning and carbon storage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biodiversity*
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Fungi / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Tannins / metabolism*
  • Tannins / pharmacology


  • Soil
  • Tannins
  • Carbon