Forest top canopy bacterial communities are influenced by elevation and host tree traits

Yiwei Duan*, Andjin Siegenthaler, Andrew k. Skidmore, Anthony a. Chariton, Ivo Laros, Mélody Rousseau, G. Arjen de groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: The phyllosphere microbiome is crucial for plant health and ecosystem functioning. While host species play a determining role in shaping the phyllosphere microbiome, host trees of the same species that are subjected to different environmental conditions can still exhibit large degrees of variation in their microbiome diversity and composition. Whether these intra-specific variations in phyllosphere microbiome diversity and composition can be observed over the broader expanse of forest landscapes remains unclear. In this study, we aim to assess the variation in the top canopy phyllosphere bacterial communities between and within host tree species in the temperate European forests, focusing on Fagus sylvatica (European beech) and Picea abies (Norway spruce).

Results: We profiled the bacterial diversity, composition, driving factors, and discriminant taxa in the top canopy phyllosphere of 211 trees in two temperate forests, Veluwe National Parks, the Netherlands and Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany. We found the bacterial communities were primarily shaped by host species, and large variation existed within beech and spruce. While we showed that there was a core microbiome in all tree species examined, community composition varied with elevation, tree diameter at breast height, and leaf-specific traits (e.g., chlorophyll and P content). These driving factors of bacterial community composition also correlated with the relative abundance of specific bacterial families.

Conclusions: While our results underscored the importance of host species, we demonstrated a substantial range of variation in phyllosphere bacterial diversity and composition within a host species. Drivers of these variations have implications at both the individual host tree level, where the bacterial communities differed based on tree traits, and at the broader forest landscape level, where drivers like certain highly plastic leaf traits can potentially link forest canopy bacterial community variations to forest ecosystem processes. We eventually showed close associations between forest canopy phyllosphere bacterial communities and host trees exist, and the consistent patterns emerging from these associations are critical for host plant functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalEnvironmental Microbiomes
Issue number1
Early online date5 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 5 Apr 2024




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