Long-term warming alters the composition of Arctic soil microbial communities

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2012 Nov;82(2):303-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2012.01350.x. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


Despite the importance of Arctic soils in the global carbon cycle, we know very little of the impacts of warming on the soil microbial communities that drive carbon and nutrient cycling in these ecosystems. Over a 2-year period, we monitored the structure of soil fungal and bacterial communities in organic and mineral soil horizons in plots warmed by greenhouses for 18 years and in control plots. We found that microbial communities were stable over time but strongly structured by warming. Warming led to significant reductions in the evenness of bacterial communities, while the evenness of fungal communities increased significantly. These patterns were strongest in the organic horizon, where temperature change was greatest and were associated with a significant increase in the dominance of the Actinobacteria and significant reductions in the Gemmatimonadaceae and the Proteobacteria. Greater evenness of the fungal community with warming was associated with significant increases in the ectomycorrhizal fungi, Russula spp., Cortinarius spp., and members of the Helotiales suggesting that increased growth of the shrub Betula nana was an important mechanism driving this change. The shifts in soil microbial community structure appear sufficient to account for warming-induced changes in nutrient cycling in Arctic tundra as climate warms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arctic Regions
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Betula
  • Biota
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Climate Change*
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics
  • Ecosystem*
  • Gene Library
  • Mycorrhizae / genetics
  • Mycorrhizae / growth & development*
  • Phylogeny
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Temperature


  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer
  • Soil