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Microbial Ecology
Vol.
65, No. 2, 2013; Pages: 405 - 414

Organic Layer Serves as a Hotspot of Microbial Activity and Abundance in Arctic Tundra Soils

Seung-Hoon Lee, Inyoung Jang, Namyi Chae, Taejin Choi, Hojeong Kang

Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Abstract

Tundra ecosystem is of importance for its high accumulation of organic carbon and vulnerability to future climate change. Microorganisms play a key role in carbon dynamics of the tundra ecosystem by mineralizing organic carbon. We assessed both ecosystem process rates and community structure of Bacteria, Archaea, and Fungi in different soil layers (surface organic layer and subsurface mineral soil) in an Arctic soil ecosystem located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard during the summer of 2008 by using biochemical and molecular analyses, such as enzymatic assay, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP), quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and pyrosequencing. Activity of hydrolytic enzymes showed difference according to soil type. For all three microbial communities, the average gene copy number did not significantly differ between soil types. However, archaeal diversities appeared to differ according to soil type, whereas bacterial and fungal diversity indices did not show any variation. Correlation analysis between biogeochemical and microbial parameters exhibited a discriminating pattern according to microbial or soil types. Analysis of the microbial community structure showed that bacterial and archaeal communities have different profiles with unique phylotypes in terms of soil types. Water content and hydrolytic enzymes were found to be related with the structure of bacterial and archaeal communities, whereas soil organic matter (SOM) and total organic carbon (TOC) were related with bacterial communities. The overall results of this study indicate that microbial enzyme activity were generally higher in the organic layer than in mineral soils and that bacterial and archaeal communities differed between the organic layer and mineral soils in the Arctic region. Compared to mineral soil, peat-covered organic layer may represent a hotspot for secondary productivity and nutrient cycling in this ecosystem.

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