The fold change of N cycle genes between the shrubland and the coniferous forest.
Network interactions between environmental parameters and microbial taxonomic community.
The forest timberline responds quickly and markedly to climate changes, rendering it a ready indicator. Climate warming has caused an upshift of the timberline worldwide. However, the impact on belowground ecosystem and biogeochemical cycles remain elusive. To understand soil microbial ecology of the timberline, we analyzed microbial communities via 16s rRNA Illumina sequencing, a microarray-based tool named GeoChip 4.0 and a random matrix theory-based association network approach. We selected 24 sampling sites at two vegetation belts forming the timberline of Shennongjia Mountain in Hubei Province of China, a region with extraordinarily rich biodiversity. We found that temperature, among all of measured environmental parameters, showed the most significant and extensive linkages with microbial biomass, microbial diversity and composition at both taxonomic and functional gene levels, and microbial association network. Therefore, temperature was the best predictor for microbial community variations in the timberline. Furthermore, abundances of nitrogen cycle and phosphorus cycle genes were concomitant with NH4+-N, NO3−-N and total phosphorus, offering tangible clues to the underlying mechanisms of soil biogeochemical cycles. As the first glimpse at both taxonomic and functional compositions of soil microbial community of the timberline, our findings have major implications for predicting consequences of future timberline upshift.
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