Experimental erosion of microbial diversity decreases soil CH4 consumption rates

Elvira Schnyder, Paul L.E. Bodelier, Martin Hartmann, Ruth Henneberger, Pascal A. Niklaus* (Corresponding author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments have predominantly focused on communities of higher organisms, in particular plants, with comparably little known to date about the relevance of biodiversity for microbially driven biogeochemical processes. Methanotrophic bacteria play a key role in Earth's methane (CH4) cycle by removing atmospheric CH4 and reducing emissions from methanogenesis in wetlands and landfills. Here, we used a dilution-to-extinction approach to simulate diversity loss in a methanotrophic landfill cover soil community. Replicate samples were diluted 101–107-fold, preincubated under a high CH4 atmosphere for microbial communities to recover to comparable size, and then incubated for 86 days at constant or diurnally cycling temperature. We hypothesize that (1) CH4 consumption decreases as methanotrophic diversity is lost, and (2) this effect is more pronounced under variable temperatures. Net CH4 consumption was determined by gas chromatography. Microbial community composition was determined by DNA extraction and sequencing of amplicons specific to methanotrophs and bacteria (pmoA and 16S gene fragments). The richness of operational taxonomic units (OTU) of methanotrophic and nonmethanotrophic bacteria decreased approximately linearly with log-dilution. CH4 consumption decreased with the number of OTUs lost, independent of community size. These effects were independent of temperature cycling. The diversity effects we found occured in relatively diverse communities, challenging the notion of high functional redundancy mediating high resistance to diversity erosion in natural microbial systems. The effects also resemble the ones for higher organisms, suggesting that BEF relationships are universal across taxa and spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4178
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 02 Oct 2023


  • biodiversity effects
  • DNA analysis
  • greenhouse gas
  • methane
  • soil microbes

Research theme

  • Biodiversity


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental erosion of microbial diversity decreases soil CH4 consumption rates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this