About this Research Topic
The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that by the end of the 21st century, the global average surface temperature will increase in the range of 2.6 to 4.8°C. This climate change will produce an immediate rising of soil temperature, which, along with other alterations (e.g., increasing carbon dioxide levels or nitrogen deposition), will affect the structure and abundance of soil microbial communities. This, in turn, will influence the decomposition and turnover of soil organic matter (since soil microorganisms mediate 85–90% of soil organic matter decomposition), which eventually will impact the stability and function of the soil ecosystem.
Elevation gradients have been regarded as especially interesting in the study of the effects of global warming on ecosystems since they represent powerful natural experiments that may give us information about microbial community responses to variation in temperature. Elevation gradients are characterized by strong changes in climate and biotic characteristics over short distances and are useful to better predict and help mitigate the effects of climate change. In addition, the altitudinally-defined 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 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. Over the year, soil microorganisms have to face large seasonal variations in environmental conditions, such as temperature and moisture, as well as in resource availability. The inter-annual variability can also play an important role in soil microbial community structure and activity. However, contradictory data also have been reported.
Integrative studies on the characterization of soil microbial communities along elevation gradients, with regard to various aspects, and on the interaction with plants and fauna, and the elucidation of links between parameters that influence soil microbial properties as a consequence of climate change, are extremely useful to develop simulation models and mitigation strategies for climate change.
The Research Topic “Elevation gradients: microbial indicators of climate change?” is intended as a collection of articles on the response of soil microorganisms to climate change. All aspects of soil microorganisms are of interest, such as community structure, diversity, abundance, decomposition, enzymes, molecular structures. Integrative studies, as mentioned above, are most welcome. Mini-reviews and research articles about laboratory and field experiments are accepted.
Keywords: Climate Change, Altitude, Microbial Communities, Soil, Forest, Mountains
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