The microbiome of plants: R. glacialis and its rhizobiome along a high-alpine altitudinal gradient

Rhizosphere zones of plants are known to be hot-spots for microbial diversity. To determine the importance of environmental parameters and the roots’ influence on shaping the soil microbial community, we investigated microbial communities in the rhizosphere of Ranunculus glacialis and bulk soil along a high-alpine altitudinal gradient (2,600 – 3,400 m a.s.l.) at Mount “Schrankogel” in the Central Alps of Tyrol (Austria).

We demonstrated that the composition of microbial communities could be categorized according to the alpine, alpine-nival and nival zone. Environmental parameters explained 41% of the total variation of soil prokaryotic communities, with pH and temperature being the strongest influencing factors. The effects of the roots accounted for about one third of the explained variation. Fungal communities were nearly exclusively influenced by environmental parameters.

A mid-altitudinal zone at 3,000 - 3,100 m was shown to harbor highest microbial diversities and specialized biomarker taxa. This transition zone lies between the (lower) alpine grassland/tundra zone and the (upper) sparsely vegetated nival zone and was shown to correspond with the summer snow line. Climate change and the associated increase in temperature will shift this transition zone upwards, which could have significant impact on microbial diversity and thus occurring taxa being specialized to this zone.


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Fig. 1: The rhizobiome of Ranunculus glacialis was investigated along an altitudinal gradient (2,600 – 3,400 m a.s.l.) and compared with surrounding bulk soils (Photo: R. glacialis, at 2630 m a.s.l. on Mount Schrankogel, Stubai Alps)

Präg N, Pauli H, Illmer P (2019) Microbial Diversity in Bulk and Rhizosphere Soil of Ranunculus glacialis Along a High-Alpine Altitudinal GradientFrontiers in Microbiology 10:1429



Previous Science Flash contributions:

Lots of ‘junk’ in the genome of a small aquatic invertebrate

A dataset for future monitoring of climate change effects in Alpine streams 

Forest fires: How surviving trees can suffer from heat injuries


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