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Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02405

Elevation Gradients: Microbial Indicators of Climate Change?

  • 1University of Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2Jagiellonian University, Poland

abundance of soil microbial communities.Elevation gradients have been regarded as especially interesting to study the effects of global warming on terrestrial ecosystems. Such gradients represent powerful "natural experiments" to gain information on the response of soil microbial communities to variations in temperature and the associated climatic factors. Elevation gradients are characterized by strong changes in climate and biotic characteristics over short distances and are thus useful to better predict and help mitigate the effects of climate change. In addition, the altitudinallydefined vegetation belts on mountain slopes are counterparts to the latitudinally-controlled climatic zones. In the last years, a number of studies have demonstrated changes in in soil microbial diversity, community structure, abundance and several activities (e.g., enzymes, soil organic matter decomposition, respiration) along elevation gradients, which were significantly correlated with environmental parameters, including climate. that the differences in winter snow depth and soil frost explained variation in bacterial community composition along elevation, whereas variation in fungal community composition was best explained by standing root biomass. The potential soil N mineralization rates were related to saprotrophic and ectomycorrhizal abundance, while soil nitrification rates were related to the abundance of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea. The results suggest that a declining winter snowpack and its effect on plant roots each impact the diversity and abundance of soil bacteria and fungi that can interact to determine rates of soil N cycling in northern forest ecosystems.In summary, the articles included in this Research Topic demonstrate the importance of elevation gradients for the estimation of the effects of climate change on soil microbial parameters and thus soil processes. The results of such studies allow to predict that climate change will have direct (temperature, water content) and indirect (soil parameters, plant species, and their rhizosphere) impacts on soil microbial community structure and diversity and, as a consequence, could change soil processes, especially cycling of carbon and nitrogen, which in turn will significantly enhance the effects of climate change.RM and MAN wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Keywords: Soil, rhizosphere, microbial communities, elevation, Climate Change

Received: 04 Aug 2019; Accepted: 07 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Margesin and Niklińska. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Rosa Margesin, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria,