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Keywords:

  • alpine;
  • bacterial community;
  • elevational gradient;
  • Q10;
  • soil respiration;
  • temperature response

Abstract

In this study, soil bacterial communities and the temperature responses (Q10) of substrate-induced respiration were compared between an alpine dry meadow and a subalpine forest in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Bacterial communities in three seasons from each environment were described with 16S rRNA gene clone libraries. The main goal of this comparison was to relate phylogenetic differences among bacterial communities with variation in soil respiratory temperature sensitivities along seasonal and altitudinal gradients. The warmer, lower elevation, subalpine forest soil exhibited large seasonal variations in Q10. Subalpine Q10 values were highest in summer, and were higher than alpine values in all seasons except winter. Q10 in alpine soils were consistently low throughout the year. Alpine and subalpine bacterial communities both varied seasonally, and were markedly distinct from each other. Based on Fst analysis, subalpine communities from colder times of year were more similar to the alpine communities than were subalpine summer communities. Principle component analysis of the pairwise genetic distances (Fst) between communities produced two factors that accounted for 69% and 22% of the total variance in the data set. These factors demonstrated a significant relationship between bacterial community structure and temperature response when regressed on log-transformed Q10 data.