Bacterial and fungal communities in boreal forest soil are insensitive to changes in snow cover conditions

Minna Männistö, Jaana Vuosku, Sari Stark, Karita Saravesi, Marko Suokas, Annamari Markkola, Francoise Martz, Pasi Rautio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The northern regions are experiencing considerable changes in winter climate leading to more frequent warm periods, rain-on-snow events and reduced snow pack diminishing the insulation properties of snow cover and increasing soil frost and freeze-thaw cycles. In this study, we investigated how the lack of snow cover, formation of ice encasement and snow compaction affect the size, structure and activities of soil bacterial and fungal communities. Contrary to our hypotheses, snow manipulation treatments over one winter had limited influence on microbial community structure, bacterial or fungal copy numbers or enzyme activities. However, microbial community structure and activities shifted seasonally among soils sampled before snow melt, in early and late growing season and seemed driven by substrate availability. Bacterial and fungal communities were dominated by stress-resistant taxa such as the orders Acidobacteriales, Chaetothyriales and Helotiales that are likely adapted to adverse winter conditions. This study indicated that microbial communities in acidic northern boreal forest soil may be insensitive to direct effects of changing snow cover. However, in long term, the detrimental effects of increased ice and frost to plant roots may alter plant derived carbon and nutrient pools to the soil likely leading to stronger microbial responses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Number of pages14
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Field of science

  • Plant biology, microbiology, virology
  • Ecology, evolutionary biology


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