EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Microbial community composition is linked to Sphagnum acclimation to warming

Tatjana Živković1,2, Alyssa A Carell1, Gustaf Granath3, Mats B Nilsson4, Manuel Helbig5, Denis Warshan6, Ingeborg Jenneken Klarenberg7, Daniel Gilbert8, A. Jonathan Shaw9, Joel E Kostka10, and David J Weston1
Tatjana Živković et al.
  • 1Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, USA
  • 2McGill University, Montreal, Canada (
  • 3Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 4Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umea, Sweden
  • 5Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada
  • 6University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 7University of Akureyri, Akureyri, Iceland
  • 8Université de Franche-Comté, Montbeliard, France
  • 9Duke University, Durham, USA
  • 10Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA

Peatlands store about third of the terrestrial carbon (C) and exert long-term climate cooling. Dominant plant genera in acidic peatlands, Sphagnum mosses, are main contributors to net primary productivity. Through associative relationships with diverse microbial organisms (microbiome), Sphagnum mosses control major biogeochemical processes, namely uptake, storage and potential release of carbon and nitrogen. Climate warming is expected to negatively impact C accumulation in peatlands and alter nutrient cycling, however Sphagnum-dominated peatland resilience to climate warming may depend on Sphagnum-microbiome associations. The ability of the microbiome to rapidly acclimatize to warming may aid Sphagnum exposed to elevated temperatures through host-microbiome acquired thermotolerance. We investigated the role of the microbiome on Sphagnum’s ability to acclimate to elevated temperatures using a microbiome-transfer approach to test: a) whether the thermal origin of the microbiome influences acclimation of Sphagnum growth and b) if microbial benefits to Sphagnum growth depend on donor Sphagnum species.

            Using a full-factorial design, microbiomes were separated from Sphagnum “donor” species from four different peatlands across a wide range of thermal environments (11.4-27°C). The microbiomes were transferred onto germ-free “recipient” Sphagnum species in the laboratory and exposed to a range of experimental temperatures (8.5 – 26.5°C) for growth analysis over 4 weeks.

            Normalized growth rates were maximized for plants that received a microbiome from a matched “donor” and with a similar origin temperature (ΔTtreatment-origin: 0.3±0.9°C [±standard error], p = 0.73). For non-matched “donor-recipient” Sphagnum pairs, ΔTtreatment-origin was slightly negative with -4.1±2.1°C (p = 0.06). The largest growth rate of the “recipient” was measured when grown with a microbiome from a matching “donor” Sphagnum species and was 252% and 48% larger than the maximum growth rate of the germ-free Sphagnum and the non-matched “donor-recipient” Sphagnum pairs, respectively.

            Our results suggest that the composition of the Sphagnum microbiome plays a critical role in host plant temperature acclimation. We found that microbially-provided benefits to the host plant were most pronounced when: 1) the thermal origin of the microbiome is similar to experimental temperatures, and 2) when donor and recipient Sphagnum species are the same. Together, these results suggest that Sphagnum temperature acclimation can be modulated, in part, by microbial interactions and may potentially play a role in peatland resilience to climate warming.

How to cite: Živković, T., Carell, A. A., Granath, G., Nilsson, M. B., Helbig, M., Warshan, D., Klarenberg, I. J., Gilbert, D., Shaw, A. J., Kostka, J. E., and Weston, D. J.: Microbial community composition is linked to Sphagnum acclimation to warming, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13734,, 2021.

This abstract will not be presented.