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Vegetation type, not the legacy of warming, modifies the response of microbial functional genes and greenhouse gas fluxes to drought in oro-arctic and alpine regions

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  • Ellen L Fry
  • Deborah Ashworth
  • Kimberley A J Allen
  • Nathalie Isabelle Chardon
  • Christian Rixen
  • Mats P Björkman
  • Robert G Björk
  • Thomas Stålhandske
  • Mathias Molau
  • Brady Locke-King
  • Isabelle Cantillon
  • Catriona McDonald
  • Hongwei Liu
  • Franciska T De Vries
  • Nick J Ostle
  • Brajesh K Singh
  • Richard D Bardgett
Article numberfiad145
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number12
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/11/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Climate warming and summer droughts alter soil microbial activity, affecting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in arctic and alpine regions. However, the long-term effects of warming, and implications for future microbial resilience, are poorly understood. Using one alpine and three arctic soils subjected to in situ long-term experimental warming, we simulated drought in laboratory incubations to test how microbial functional-gene abundance affects fluxes in three GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. We found that responses of functional gene abundances to drought and warming are strongly associated with vegetation type and soil carbon. Our sites ranged from a wet, forb dominated, soil carbon-rich systems to a drier, soil carbon-poor alpine site. Resilience of functional gene abundances, and in turn methane and carbon dioxide fluxes, was lower in the wetter, carbon-rich systems. However, we did not detect an effect of drought or warming on nitrous oxide fluxes. All gene-GHG relationships were modified by vegetation type, with stronger effects being observed in wetter, forb-rich soils. These results suggest that impacts of warming and drought on GHG emissions are linked to a complex set of microbial gene abundances and may be habitat-specific.