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

Microbial temperature adaptation across a European gradient

Carla Cruz Paredes, Daniel Tajmel, and Johannes Rousk
Carla Cruz Paredes et al.
  • Microbial Ecology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Temperature is one of the most important environmental factors controlling both microbial growth and respiration. Warmer temperatures accelerate the rate at which microorganisms respire. Therefore, it is expected that climate warming will induce losses of carbon to the atmosphere through soil microbial respiration, representing a positive feedback to climate warming. However, there are multiple gaps in our understanding on responses of microorganisms to warming. For instance, long-term experiments have shown that the increase in soil respiration found in warming experiments diminishes with time, recovering to ambient values. This suggests that soil C losses might not be as extensive as previously suggested. This can be due to substrate depletion or shifts in the microbial community composition that led to thermal adaptation. To test thermal adaptation of soil microbial communities to their climate, variation along latitudinal gradients is a useful context. Such geographical gradients have long-term and large temperature differences thus patterns in thermal adaptation should have had sufficient time for ecological and evolutionary processes to act, allowing us to test if soil microbial communities have adapted to thermal regimes.

We investigated a latitudinal gradient across Europe with 76 sites that spanned a gradient of decadal mean annual temperature (MAT) from -3.1 to 18.3°C. We investigated if respiration, bacterial and fungal growth responses were adapted to long-term temperature differences in this gradient. We did this by estimating the temperature dependences of bacterial growth, fungal growth and respiration. We determined the temperature sensitivity (Q10), the minimum temperature (Tmin) for growth and the optimum temperature (Topt) for growth. These metrics were then correlated to MAT. Additionally, we sequenced bacterial (16S) and fungal (ITS) amplicons from the different sites to also assess variance in community composition and structure. We hypothesized that microbes should be adapted to their historical temperature; microbial communities in warmer environments will be warm-shifted and vice versa.

We could effectively represent temperature relationships for bacterial growth, fungal growth, and respiration for all soils. As expected, temperature relationships correlated with the environmental temperature of the site, such that higher temperatures resulted in microbial communities with warm-adapted growth and respiration. This could be seen as a strong positive correlation between Tmin values and environmental temperatures which range from -14 to -5°C for bacteria, -11.5 to -4°C for fungi and -8 to -2°C for respiration. We found that MAT explains the microbial communities’ temperature dependencies for bacterial growth and respiration, but not for fungal growth. With 1°C rise in MAT, Tmin increased 0.17°C for bacterial growth, while Tmin for respiration increased by 0.11. Similarly, bacterial and fungal communities’ composition were correlated with MAT (r2=0.38; r2=0.62), and Tmin (r2=0.16; r2=0.21). These findings suggest that thermal adaptation occurs in processes such as bacterial growth and respiration, probably due to shifts in the microbial community composition. However, fungal growth seems to be less sensitive to changes in temperature, even though fungal communities’ composition was correlated with MAT.

How to cite: Cruz Paredes, C., Tajmel, D., and Rousk, J.: Microbial temperature adaptation across a European gradient, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4867,, 2021.


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