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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1955. doi: 10.1038/srep01955.

Insights into functional bacterial diversity and its effects on Alpine bog ecosystem functioning.

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Graz University of Technology, Environmental Biotechnology, Petersgasse 12, 8010 Graz, Austria.


Plant-associated bacteria are important for the growth and health of their host, but little is known about its functional diversity and impact on ecosystem functioning. We studied bacterial nitrogen fixation and methane oxidation from indicator Sphagnum mosses in Alpine bogs to test a hypothesis that the plant microbiome contained different functional patterns depending on their functions within the ecosystem. A high abundance and diversity of nitrogenase genes were detected, mostly specific for each Sphagnum. In contrast, methanotrophs formed highly similar patterns despite a high abundance and diversity of methane monooxygenase genes. Our hypothesis was supported by these contrasting functional patterns together with the result that the Sphagnum sporophyte contained a high proportion of specific diazotrophs (45.5%) but no potential methanotrophs. While essential for plant growth under nutrient-limited conditions, nitrogen-fixing bacteria were highly specific and transferred with the sporophyte unlike the ubiquitous methanotrophs which are important for the climate-relevant ecosystem itself.

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