Agricultural peatlands are essential for a myriad of ecosystem functions and play an important role in the global carbon (C) cycle through C sequestration. Management of these agricultural peatlands takes place at different spatial scales, ranging from local to landscape management, and drivers of soil microbial community structure and function may be scale-dependent. Effective management for an optimal biogeochemical functioning thus requires knowledge of the drivers on soil microbial community structure and functioning, as well as the spatial scales upon which they are influenced. During two field campaigns, we examined the importance of different drivers (i.e., soil characteristics, nutrient management, vegetation composition) at two spatial scales (local vs. landscape) for, respectively, the soil microbial community structure (determined by PLFA) and soil microbial community functional capacity (as assessed by CLPP) in agricultural peatlands. First, we show by an analysis of PLFA profiles that the total microbial biomass changes with soil moisture and relative C:P nutrient availability. Secondly, we showed that soil communities are controlled by a distinct set of drivers at the local, as opposed to landscape, scale. Community structure was found to be markedly different between areas, in contrast to community function which showed high variability within areas. We further found that microbial structure appears to be controlled more at a landscape scale by nutrient-related variables, whereas microbial functional capacity is driven locally through plant community feedbacks. Optimal management strategies within such peatlands should therefore consider the scale-dependent action of soil microbial community drivers, for example by first optimizing microbial structure at the landscape scale by targeted areal management, and then optimizing soil microbial function by local vegetation management.
Teurlincx, S., Heijboer, A., Veraart, A. J., Kowalchuk, G. A., & Declerck, S. A. J. (2018). Local functioning, landscape structuring: drivers of soil microbial community structure and function in peatlands. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9, . https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.02060