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Heterotrophic microbial communities use ancient carbon following glacial retreat.

Bardgett, Richard D. and Richter, Andreas and Bol, Roland and Garnett, Mark H. and Bäumler, Rupert and Xu, Xingliang and Lopez-Capel, Elisa and Manning, David and Hobbs, Phil J. and Hartley, Ian R. and Wanek, Wolfgang (2007) Heterotrophic microbial communities use ancient carbon following glacial retreat. Biology Letters, 3 (5). pp. 487-490. ISSN 1744-957X

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Abstract

When glaciers retreat they expose barren substrates that become colonized by organisms, beginning the process of primary succession. Recent studies reveal that heterotrophic microbial communities occur in newly exposed glacial substrates before autotrophic succession begins. This raises questions about how heterotrophic microbial communities function in the absence of carbon inputs from autotrophs. We measured patterns of soil organic matter development and changes in microbial community composition and carbon use along a 150-year chronosequence of a retreating glacier in the Austrian Alps. We found that soil microbial communities of recently deglaciated terrain differed markedly from those of later successional stages, being of lower biomass and higher abundance of bacteria relative to fungi. Moreover, we found that these initial microbial communities used ancient and recalcitrant carbon as an energy source, along with modern carbon. Only after more than 50 years of organic matter accumulation did the soil microbial community change to one supported primarily by modern carbon, most likely from recent plant production. Our findings suggest the existence of an initial stage of heterotrophic microbial community development that precedes autotrophic community assembly and is sustained, in part, by ancient carbon.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Biology Letters
Uncontrolled Keywords: microbial communities ; organic matter ; carbon ; chronosequence
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Departments: Faculty of Science and Technology > Lancaster Environment Centre
ID Code: 9144
Deposited By: Dr Ian R Hartley
Deposited On: 28 May 2008 13:47
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2012 16:15
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/9144

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